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The Chemical Brothers: Dusted.

4 March 2002 | 1:00 am | Shane Cooper
Originally Appeared In

Stars Needs Guitars.

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The Chemical Brothers play Festival Hall on Monday.


The block rockin' beats of The Chemical Brothers have been bombarding clubs and airwaves for the past seven years. With the help of some friends (Beth Orton, Noel Gallagher, Bobby Gillespie) The Chemical Brothers have built an envious catalogue of spine-cracking beats and manic sounds that have kept them ahead of the game.

The brains behind the talented twiddling - Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands – met when they were a pair of young DJs inspired by the iconic sounds of Kraftwerk, Public Enemy and Jesus & Mary Chain. It was a match made in heaven. A swift name change from The Dust Brothers did little to quell the rising swell surrounding Ed and Tom's crunching soundscape.

Now the dust has settled on previous albums Exit Planet Dust, Dig Your Own Hole and Surrender, it's time to welcome a fourth Chemical Brothers opus into the arena. With its futuristic, almost psychedelic folk direction, Come With Us pulls off the trick of consistency with progression.

In stark contrast to the frenetic beats of The Chemical Brothers, Ed's demeanour is serious and subdued as he explains why his relationship with Tom remains fruitful.

"We were friends before we became the Chemical Brothers. And, like any good friends, we get on and enjoy each other's company. Our friendship is based around music; it's the core of our relationship. At the moment, it's exciting because we can have a bit of a laugh. We're like an old married couple."

Like most successful acts, The Chemical Brothers are aware the stakes are higher with each new recording. Punters demand quality while critics want to give the work another fat tick. After all, The Chemical Brothers have established a high standard in the clubbing world. Ed agrees Come With Us was more difficult to record than previous albums but, mainly, because of their own expectations.

"We were definitely more conscious of our other records when it came time to make this album," Ed explains. "When we released Exit Planet Dust, it was different because we had a totally unique sound. Everything was exciting then.”

"It's quite an overpowering feeling to make a record. It's a challenge that gets you up every morning. Sometimes, it's the most exciting thing in the world when you're halfway through a track and you know it's going really good. You can't get there quick enough."

The complexity and intensity of their music would suggest Ed and Tom follow a carefully orchestrated recipe for measuring every recorded tweak and bleep. But that's not the case, Ed says, pointing out that their magic is more haphazard than clinical.

"We always start without knowing really where we're going to end up," he explains. "We have no idea; we never have a plan. At the beginning of an album, we go into the studio and start playing with sounds and ideas while searching good records for samples. We're quite pleased when we end up with an album that sounds like other Chemical Brothers albums. We've got a definite sound, you know. We do something unique with our albums; there's no question about that."

First single proper from Come With Us is the sun-bleached rhythms of Star Guitar. It follows last year's low-key release of It Began In Afrika that sent shockwaves through clubs with its thunderous tribal techno doofs. In addition to the prerequisite Beth Orton collaboration (The State We're In), another of the album's highlights is the closing track The Test featuring the sweeping presence of Richard Ashcroft.

As fans of The Verve, Ed explains how Richard was a natural selection: "Well, we've recorded sprawling instrumental psychedelic workouts before but, this time, we wanted to put a vocal on it. We thought Richard Ashcroft would be perfect for what we had in mind. We wanted something epic to finish the album and that's exactly what we ended up with. It was amazing to work with his powerful voice."

Considering how many artists are pushing the musical envelopes it's quite an accomplishment for anyone, these days, to create a track unlike all before it. That's exactly what Ed believes The Chemical Brothers have achieved with his favourite Come With Us moment, Hoops. "I don't think anyone else could make a track like Hoops. It sounds completely different to anything else that's out there. It's The Chemical Brothers song I am most proud of.”

"We've always tried to celebrate the things we like about music so people can make a connection. All of our records share the spirit and dynamics and I think that's good. You don't need to keep pushing these four walls if you have something you're pleased with. If that's what you do then that's what you do."