What does it sound like?:
Groove Armada are still going. They are a duo of Brits, Tom Findlay and Andy Cato, who came together in the mid nineties. They started with their own club where they played smooth, jazz-inflected lounge music. Twenty years on, after eight albums, four of which made the top fifty, you can hire them to ‘perform’ in your front room. Sony have reissued two of their most popular albums, mainly for the vinyl market.
They create a collage from other people’s records, piecing samples together with some original hooks and beats, painstakingly disguising the seams. It is music to get people moving in a club, a field, a beach, and have a good time or for relaxing after a long night on the tiles.There was a lot of it about when these two albums were originally released in 1999 and 2001. Fatboy Slim and Moby were the biggest chart botherers, The Chemical Brothers and Death In Vegas cornered the Rock end of the collage market and Air and Röyskopp competed in the Chill Out lounge.
Vertigo is the more accomplished album, full of gentle rhythms, neat horn charts and rising chord progressions. Their two best known songs are here, At The River and I See You Baby. It’s somewhat ironic that it took a superstar DJ remix by Fatboy Slim to propel I See You Baby to the top a few years later on the back of a car advert. A couple of years later, there was clearly more money to spend for Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub), whose title accurately reflects an increase and a hardening in tempo. There are more collaborators, including Richie Havens and Nile Rodgers. Superstylin’, with its Reggae flavour and vocals by MC M.A.D., was its signature tune. The investment paid off, yielding an album impacting upon charts across the world.
The turn of the century was the era of peak CD. Both of these albums clock in at well over an hour. They are very pleasurable on the ear but could do with some trimming. Collage type music tends to be repetitive, no matter how innovative the DJs are with the drums, the depth of the bass and the flourishes in the keyboards. The guests on Goodbye Country do provide more rounded, complete lyrics but are inclined to retain their best material for themselves. Still, like many of their contemporaries, the creative teams in advertising agencies loved them, providing another lucrative income stream.
The problem for acts like Groove Armada is imposing your personality on music mainly created by others. Very few became a recognisable brand, Fatboy Slim being the most notable exception. Otherwise, many of these DJs and dance artists remained anonymous, as exemplified by the cover of Vertigo. My bet is that many people will recognise At The River on the radio or in a bar but will fail to identify the artist.
Even so, Groove Armada and their music are charming and erudite. Their emblem, a capital ‘G’ with a star is sign of quality.
What does it all *mean*?
Now, if you are so inclined, you can enjoy both sets on vinyl. Vertigo is a double LP and Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) is a triple.
Goes well with…
A cocktail, a sun lounger and a cravat.
Might suit people who like…
Urbane, suave, polished music