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Album of the month | Bicep - Isles

An early record of the year contender on Ninja Tune.

Artist: Bicep
Title: Isles
Label: Ninja Tune
Released: 22 January

Sounds like: The wave of euphoria and breaks a dying world so desperately needs


Bicep

Has it really been four years since Bicep released their critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album?

Taking into account how long that project took to come to light, the much anticipated follow up has materialised relatively quickly. And so Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar return to Ninja Tune as a world on the cusp of disaster gives them its full attention.

Few acts in dance music manage to simultaneously appease the masses and the chinstrokers, but Bicep are one them.

Before the pandemic, they had a run of sell-out shows at Brixton Academy and headline billing at London's Field Day in the pipeline. Then Covid struck.

Not to be deterred, Andy and Matt adapted, taking their show online for high-tech, pay-per-view streams that invested as much in visuals as they did in music. It was during these performances where new music aired.

The backdrop against which the new album is released could not be more volatile.

Tribal politics, climate emergency and a global health crisis - it feels like a warzone out there. Maybe, just maybe, Bicep will distract us long enough to glue humanity back together.


Isles

Our first concern was that Isles might not be as good as the first album. The second was that its best tracks might already be in the public domain.

We needn't have worried on either count.

While the first album was a journey through the spectrum of rave, Isles homes in on non-linear dance music with further exploration of breaks that the duo helped repopularise.

Whether by accident or design, the album feels better suited to home listening than its predecessor. Given the distinct lack of clubbing global and much of the world being confined indoors, this direction makes perfect sense.

Lido is a reflective piece of music that feels like a morning walk through pine forest, as beams of sunlight seep through.

The haunting melancholia on Bollywood-inspired Sundial casts a shadow that betrays Bicep's reputation for euphoria. They even dabble with radio-friendly R&B vocals on Saku.

There's trademark Bicep found too. The already anthemic Atlas and Apricots both feature nu-trance elements and looped vocal samples, making them obvious fan favourites.

Despite operating at the mellow end of electronica overall, the dance floor is clearly in mind for serotonin-burster Fir - coming to a Maceo Plex set soon (we hope).

Expect all ten tracks to be fed a course of steroids when performed in a live environment. Hopefully we won't have long to wait.

Oh, and there's still the promise of some tasty B-sides to come. Fans will not be going hungry.

Although Andy and Matt both hold secular views, interestingly, the Belfast duo come from different religious backgrounds. During the recording process, they felt inclined to visit this absent conflict for the first time.

At a time when the fallout of Brexit threatens to open old wounds in Northern Ireland, this feels particularly topical.

Bicep do not shy away from their multi-cultural influences. There's Hindi, Bulgarian, Japanese and Malawian, as well as English, on Isles.

No man is an island, but in these divisive and uncertain times Bicep bridge the void and show there is more that binds us than separates us. Let's look to the common ground.

Highlights: Atlas, Apricots, Lido, Sundial, Fir

Isles is out now and available to stream and purchase at all the usual places.

To discover more music the Ibiza Spotlight team are enjoying right now, head over to our Spotify profile and click subscribe!


Other huge albums released this month:

Hybrasil | Ten | Hybrasil | 15 Jan
Bodaishin | El Valley De Kadisha | Do Not Sit On The Furniture | 29 Jan


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