In the absence of neon-lit dancefloors and pumping, bass-in-your-face clubs, Bicep’s ‘Isles’ is a welcome treat. Not only does their sophomore album harness elements of Orbital, Bonobo and even Above & Beyond on a less commercial day, it behaves as a ticket to escapism — even just for a while.
Although you might not be in Ibiza or a murky warehouse listening to this, close your eyes and you might just kid yourself for a moment. This transformative, dynamic record opens with ‘Atlas’ and, not to dissuade you from listening any further, because you should, this is my favourite. It sets Bicep’s stall out as journey-makers, taking our ears through morphing electronics and timely, hard-hitting drum beats. I’ve spun this while writing, but on the cross trainer, too. It’s that versatile. The banger of the album was tipped to be the explosive single ‘Sundial’, but I’d argue this powerfully transcendent track one is actually the biggie.
Of course, there’s so much energy in ‘Sundial’ to savour — and the same can be said for ‘Apricots’, a song as sweet as its name suggests. It’s an uplifting number that follows ‘Cazenove’, which encompasses those ethereal female vocals that gives this dance anthem a world music edge.
If the combination of pulsing, progressive house and angelic tones are up your street, ‘Rever’ with Julia Kent is spellbinding. Its whirling synths meet with unexpected grime-esque beats, which position it another massive tune on the record.
While ‘Fir’ and closing ‘Hawk’ have hypnotic notes, they’re the lower rent aspects of the album, for me. You get the urge to turn the lights off and the volume up at the start of ‘Isles’, but the tapering off towards the end leads me to return to modern classics from somebody like Bonobo’s works. This is a palate-cleansing offering in what could be a dance playlist dégustation.
If you only download one track, let it be: ‘Atlas’