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EP Review: Digitalism – Lift

It’s always been difficult to situate Hamburg duo Digitalism within a context. Here’s the dilemma. Are they lost remnants of late 90s, post-Daft Punk Paris? Glowstick-wielders of the NME-proclaimed ‘07 nu rave? Or merely Soulwax copyists? No one really knows. And actually, why does it even matter? Relied upon for their discothèque-channeling, hands-in-air ‘moments’, gigantic beats and clattering techno chugs, they’ve never felt the need to trend-hop. They’ve always got the parts, the tunes, the not-quite-pigeonholeable sound and the result? In German, ‘Magie’.

Shockingly, it’s been eight whole years since their cracking debut single ‘Idealistic’ was released on boutique Parisian label Kitsuné, and all things considered, not much has really changed since then, musically at least. You only need to listen to a minute of their wall-shaking remix of ’s ‘Pilgrim’, laid down earlier this year, to find proof. That is, their trademarked, tried-and-tested dance music invoking night-time revelry, commotion and all things epic. Brash electronica: nothing more and nothing less.

Lift, their fifteenth (!) EP and their first release on Kitsuné since way back, is immediately thrilling, even bombastic, but not overbearing. What we have is transcendental and monumental from the get-go, relentless and constantly developing, perfect for party-starting and perfect for waking in the early hours. It can lift you up on many levels. On the title-track and opener, for instance, thudding bass and a trebly beat mean things don’t start off lightly. Deceptively simple, yes, but the great panoply of textures and layers introduced as the track progresses craft a sharp, dancefloor-ready anthem.

This release is a collaborative one – a first for the duo. Said opening track features The M Machine’s casual, indie boy vocals, whilst the next is a way-out, earworming workout with super-producer/Deadmau5 associate Steve Duda. Either brilliantly or terribly named ‘Dudalism’, the song starts of reluctant and slow, as Jarre-esque patters lead the listener astray. But things get nasty. The distortion kicks in and a synthy bass-line forms the foundation for layers of arpeggiating keys and a cyclical structure which means the song finishes as dreamy as it began.

Finger-wagging is compulsory in this middle ground, but headbanging is necessitated by the dark finale of third track ‘Electric Fist’, whose immersive depths and Justice-like synths inject a bewildering sense of impending doom. This time, Michael Diamond (not of Beastie Boys fame) provides the helping hand and the outcome is the perfect warm-up for a Saturday night-out. In a nutshell, it’s a great way to end an EP which is all very same-old, but in the best of ways possible. Sticking to endlessly captivating formulae is certainly not a bad thing.

- Huw Oliver

Lift is available now on Kitsuné. You can order it here.

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