What does it sound like?:
Long-time UNKLE watchers know that whether James Lavelle’s mixes are sublime (Do Androids Dream Of Electric Beats), awful (Global Underground 037) or the many points in between, they will always contain the usual suspects from the UNKLE repertoire: ‘Reign’, tick. ‘Burn My Shadow’, tick. ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’, tick. Etcetera and so on and so on.
So it was with a heavy heart that I scanned the tracklist for Lavelle’s latest Global Underground mix. Oh God. ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’, *again*. I already have 20 iterations of ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’ and I don’t consider myself anywhere near a completist. ‘Eye For An Eye’ (21). ‘Reign’ (26). What on earth can Lavelle do with these songs that hasn’t been done before?
The answer, it turns out, is edit, deconstruct and build them again, and the result is Lavelle’s strongest mix in something like a decade, an absolutely essential UNKLE artefact and a sublime listening experience. If you’re interested in Lavelle, in UNKLE, in dance music or in DJing, then please take it from me: you need this album.
Spread over the usual two-disc GU format, all but a handful of the tracks are UNKLE or UNKLE remixes, which helps the mood enormously, giving the journey (cos it is, like, ‘a journey’, yeah?) a surefooted feel that was notably absent on his previous GU outing. It’s lushly engineered by Charlie May, one half of Spooky who’s worked extensively with Sasha and knows a thing or two about creating enveloping sound worlds; equally it plays to the main strength of UNKLE, which is, in a word, ‘epic’. Or in another word, ‘widescreen’. Put it this way, if it’s subtlety you want, look elsewhere. There’s none of Lavelle’s usual fannying about with breaks or ill-conceived indie here; this is a place of skyscraping orchestral house and clifftop choruses – deep, hypnotic tech-house that shimmers with yearning.
And so –- UNKLE remixes of Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds co-exist beautifully with Queens Of The Stone Age and the Mark Lanegan Band. In a superb second-quarter section UNKLE’s own ‘Bloodstain’ morphs into a deep, immersive re-rub of London Grammar’s ‘Hey Now’, where Hannah Reid’s vocals gradually give way to a pulsating, extended 303 finish. (And just think, Hannah, if you dumped those two goons and linked up with UNKLE, you could *always* sound this good.) A little later Lana Del Rey pops up during ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’, just to prove we’re not on UNKLE autopilot here. Disc one is a good disc, it’s a great disc. Just on its own it would be a five-star mix.
Oh, but CD Two. Fuck me backwards. CD Two. It starts off innocuously enough, with a bit more Lana Del Rey, but around track five is where the real out-of-body action kicks off: ‘The Answer’, ‘Reign’, Queens Of The Stone Age’s ‘No One Knows’, followed by a simply staggering section in which UNKLE tracks are joyfully messed with and in at least two instances given new vocals. Elements disappear then reappear, before the whole lot transitions beautifully into Four Tet, Luciano and a stunning ‘Two Lost Souls’ by Planet Funk. Also in there somewhere is a Charlie May remix of ‘Heaven’, and as UNKLE fans know, this was sung by Gavin Clark, who died last year. The album is dedicated to him, and it truly is a fitting tribute. Me, I think it’s a masterpiece.
Yes, I know I’m gushing. And trying to see it from the perspective of a jaded Afterworder, I suppose the album is a bit ‘obvious’. But I’m an impressionable young thing (ahem) and quite frankly I like having my buttons pushed, especially when they’re being pushed as expertly as they are here. One thing I can say with certainty, though, is that this is the most commanding and confident Lavelle and UNKLE have ever been. Even more than ‘Do Androids…’ or ‘Exit Music…’ it sounds like you imagine UNKLE *want* to sound. Like they’ve finally realised the vision of UNKLE Lavelle has in his head. Personally I think it must have something to do with the new partnership of Lavelle and Charlie May. If so, then long may it continue.
What does it all *mean*?
Pro tip: if you buy the album on Amazon, you’ll get your mixed CD in the post, and very handsomely packaged it is too. But then, thanks to the AutoRip feature, you can also download all the unmixed tracks. It adds up to over six hours’ worth of music.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…