By no means have X-Press 2 been slacking in the six years since ‘Makeshift Feelgood’. Two of those years were spent making The House of X-Press 2 and they have a weekly radio show for Ministry of Sound. Undeterred by the loss of third member Ashley Beedle in 2009, they’ve pressed on with album number three. “It’s about war rather than throwing your hands up in the air and loving everyone,” says Rocky.
It kicks off with the anthemic, stomping ‘This Is War’, with vocals from Hannah Scanlon aka Doll, of Doll And The Kicks. Her deep, soulful voice sits perfectly over the simple but driving beat. It’s a promising opener that ends too soon. Another high point on the album is ‘The Blast’, with lyrics written and sung by former The Music front man, Rob Harvey. His voice has all the tell tale elements of an indie rocker – from the glottal stops to the hint of a Northern accent. It’s almost at odds with the deep, clean dance beat he’s singing to. Even die-hard indie devotees might like it – as it bridges the vast gap between the two genres.
‘Time’, featuring electro-pioneer James Yuill, is another little gem. It borrows more than a little bit of its jaunty sound from Aussie electro-pop outfit Cut Copy, but is all the more enjoyable for it. It also stands out as being one of the few tracks on the album with a discernable structure and is a welcome change from the likes of ‘Opulence’ and ‘Dark Matar’.
Both tracks rely heavily on sampled vocals but each have their own quirks. The booming African-sounding drums on ‘Opulence’ make it impossible not to dance to. The trumpet stabs interjected with retro arcade-style laser noises on ‘Dark Matar’ conjure up images of a futuristic Latin fiesta. ‘Get On You’ is a potential summer anthem with its bright, tropical cowbell and rising semi tonal motif reminiscent of an 80s game show theme tune.
The entire album is peppered with sonic anachronisms. The vocal refrain on ‘Lost the Feelin’ is reminiscent of Black Box’s hit ‘Ride On Time’, but don’t expect the cheese element. Collaborator Tim Deluxe brings in his signature distorted, fast-paced and catchy sound, making for pure electronic sophistication. ‘Frayed Of The Light’, featuring Amber Jolene, and ‘In The Blood’, featuring Alison Limerick, are jazzy and artful. They feature languid female vocals, with the former carrying elements of early Morcheeba, and the latter layering vocals to create intricate counter melodies.
Other notable contributors are Roland Clark And Analog People in a Digital World. They in turn bring their own signature sounds to the album and constantly surprise the listener. It’s clear that inspiration has been taken from a vast array of genres from industrial house to pop, jazz and soul, and it successfully unites traditional elements of house with new and inventive touches. Definitely worth a listen.
Thea de Gallier