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Album Review: Classixx – Hanging Gardens

Hanging Gardens, Classixx’s debut, is an album that will lead you to expose more of yourself than you ever thought you would. No, I’m not talking clothes – I’m talking dance moves. Because the fact is, we ALL have an unshakable inner conviction that we can dance. Even for people who claim to think they can’t dance, given the right situation, they will. Women throw on some heels, put their arms up and suddenly they’re Beyoncé with the bonus of Shakira’s hips (that don’t lie) as they ‘drop it to the floor’. Meanwhile, men might do a hip thrust here and a head bop there with an emphatic FIST PUMP, then add ‘a bit of this’, ‘a bit of that’, and hello Michael Jackson. Point being, the album art for this record could not be more appropriate – just as the two stick figures are lurching off the cover, you, dear listeners, will lurch off into your very own world of dance.

Kicking things off is the title track, a sporadically pulsating, tentative arrangement of throbbing synths that cultivate their own melodic life force, growing into a gorgeous wave of electro. With Nancy Whang on vocals, ‘All You’re Waiting For’ is less hesitant, launching itself head first into an irregular beat of staccato thumps, handclaps and muffled synths that induce an inevitable shoulder shuffle – at least. Recoiling into itself during an instrumental bridge, it yawns and stretches out into a chorus that rings out in electronic, layered clangs of glammed-up, feisty disco. And that’s where your moves will really begin.

Holding On’ combines a delayed echo of vocals that are almost smothered within themselves with surreal, Theremin-sounding synths to create a sun-drenched atmosphere of free-thinking and daydreams. Immediately following this luminous ambience is ‘Rhythm Santa Clara’. Layering chunky, murkier bass-beats above and beneath cut-up vocal samples, it’s minimal, jerky and all about the rhythm before it effortlessly finger-clicks itself into ‘Dominoes’. A riffing light show of distant synth calls, it builds melodic crescendos upon an unsteady, deep bass synth to create an instrumental uncertainty. It is, perhaps, the only track on the album that sounds like it could reach out and build towards an epic chorus, but never quite gets there.

Sitting further into the record is ‘A Fax From The Beach’. Evoking a lavish, subdued sound it conjures up images of sunshine (you know, England’s long forgotten climate) and beach-bars. As tuneful, muted percussion ring in unison with wind chimes, a rush of muffled synths blossom beneath a purr of vocals that leaves a feeling of harmonic bliss. These laid-back, almost chillwave moments are scattered throughout the record – for example, ‘Long Lost’ is a collaboration with Active Child that combines strobing chords with spectral, washed-out synths.

‘I’ll Get You’ was Classixx’s breakthrough track, and still sounds just as great today. As the chorus cries out, “DO YOU LIKE BASS? DO YOU, DO YOU LIKE BASS?” and you start to flail your arms around, you may just reply – in a similar manner – “YEAH I LIKE BASS! YEAH I, YEAH I LIKE BASS!” regardless of whether or not you know what exactly “liking bass” involves. Closing the album is ‘Borderline’, a track that marries half-chewed vocals with the vibrancy and hum of neon lights.

As Hanging Gardens draws to a close and you’re all out of breath from making up some seriously ground-breaking dance moves (flailing your limbs around and knocking something over), you may just have to replay Classixx’s warm, electronic-disco house of funk and do it all over again. Because hell, when the music’s this good, who cares about the dancing?

- Charlie Clarkson

Hanging Gardens is available now on Innovative Leisure.

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