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White Noise: Bicep – Stash

Monday, 22 April 2013

Bicep – Stash

Label: Aus


Irish duo Bicep’s meteoric rise to stardom over the last twelve months has been an impressive journey. With an early interest in 90s revivalism and no-nonsense Jersey sounds added to the superb You / Don’t EP (whose A-side made the top ten of our Year End Roundup), the duo have been taking the scene by storm. However this ascent has not gone without its share of detractors. For every listener enamoured by Vision Of Love’s straight-up euphoria, there was someone dissatisfied by their wholesale appropriation of a decades-old style to cash in on a trend. This criticism did not seem unfounded at the time, but the duo’s choice to air years worth of unreleased material on their Beats In Space podcast hinted at something different; darker sonic territory explored with the deft craftsmanship that has marked out each of their releases to date. Now for their second release on Will Saul’s Aus imprint, the pair give some of their new material a chance to shine, effectively heading off any critics in the process.

Opener Stash should serve as a perfect transition for those familiar with Bicep’s previous material. While the moody bass line and twitching percussion may lack the wide-eyed ecstasy of their last EP’s piano stompers, the heavy 4/4 and shimmering synthwork provide ample compensation. On Courtside Drama an ambient synth wash locks into the analog sound that is currently sweeping the scene, as piping synth notes take a dreamy lead over a deep bass throb and syncopated drum patterns.

The Game

Up until this point it’s been a largely successful stylistic shift for the pair, but the first two tracks never truly amaze. Thankfully, this is because whoever is in charge has backloaded this EP, saving the two best cuts for last. While Stash is positioned as the primary club cut here, superb third track Rise outstrips the title track’s dancefloor credentials with ease. While many of the sounds are familiar; jangling syncopations and heavy kicks, here iridescent synthwork plays out with alacrity across a track whose structure is clearly indebted to slow-burning techno, easily making for one of Bicep’s most memorable tunes to date. The Wire-sampling closer The Game is just as impressive; languid synthworks recall Twin Peaks' sounds, playing out mysteriously over a spacious arrangement of hissing hi-hats and an echoing woodblock hit.

There’s nothing wrong with this EP’s first two cuts, it more feels like the stylistic switch-up took a moment to get going. Once they get deep on the B-side the effect is magical, and quite besides being great music, the Stash EP fiercely proves that Bicep have more than a few tricks left up their sleeve.


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