Review: Easily the most anticipated album of 2021 so far, legendary UK duo Bicep are lighting it up right now with a second full length album for Ninja Tune. It follows their self-titled debut from 2017 and it sees the pair filling the UK and its neighbouring Europe with hopes, dreams and premonitions of the day we get to go clubbing again. Weaving a new age sound of synths and trance through futuristic beats and drum sequences that take in everything from two-step and house to drum and bass, jungle and techno, Bicep bring the experimentations of eras past to the minds of a mainstream audience to deliver an album that will set fire to the underground as much as it will the dance charts of the new year. Our pick: Sundial.
Review: It's common knowledge at this point that Bicep really is a generational talent when it comes to production. The impact of 'Glue' was off the scale and it's clear to see he has no intention of slowing down as we dive into another monumental single, this time taking the title of 'Atlas'. As ever, we witness pure melodic mastery as we are greeted by an array of spacey, emotional pad textures floating around the background, whilst popping arpeggios and shuffling drum beats breathe effortlessly across the front of the mix. When this is then coupled with pulsating sub lines and stunning vocal switches drenched in luscious big room reverb units, we sure are in for an absolute treat.
Review: The Glue EP by Irish power duo features two new tracks embodying the same dramatic and evocative vibes from their recent, highly acclaimed self titled album. The title track here unashamedly explores rave nostalgia, with its tough breakbeats, euphoric chord progressions and gated vocal samples taking you all the way back to '92. "Metro" uses phased acid house style drum patterns with roaring rave synth leads on this slow burning but heavily building dancefloor destroyer. Finally "DLR" soundtracks those divine moments of truth loved up in the chill-out tent, with this emotive ambient house cut with a nice tint of 303 acid for good measure that's reminiscent of classics by Orbital et al.
Review: The long awaited, self titled debut album from Irish power duo Bicep is the perfect summation of their career to date. Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson have created a singular and unique album, founded on the blueprint of classic house, techno, electro and Italo disco: but all the time bearing their unique signature. The duo felt that UK institution Ninja Tune was a perfect fit for them and gave them the total freedom to express themselves artistically, describing the label's broad scope that has, in turn, helped them to thrive. They display a strong technicality and a desire to experiment, but still with a melodic touch which runs throughout the entire record. It is this approach to creativity which has allowed Bicep to establish a unique position in the industry, in the face of a crowded global dance stage.
Review: Bicep's ascent from a blog collective with obvious taste and passion for all forms of dance music into a fully fledged brand continues apace with the foundation of Feel My Bicep, a new label named in honour of their blog which promises to showcase their own growing production nous. Vision Of Love will probably go down as one of this year's most ubiquitous releases, given the advance clamour for its release and it's not hard to see why. Yes the three tracks here contain an obvious nod to the 90s New Jersey sound Bicep clearly adore, but there's a clear craft to their execution and the title track is massively infectious.
Review: Second time round for Bicep's 2013 single Satisfy, which sees the early Italian house influenced melodic rush of the breakbeat-clad original moulded into new shapes by Brassica and John Talabot. Pleasingly, both producers deliver radical reinterpretations, with Brassica in particular impressing with a fluid, dreamy take full of vintage synthesizers, humid low-end grooves and tropical textures. Talabot meanwhile builds a bright-eyed, atmospheric deep house groove out of analogue electronics, vintage synths, darting melodies and a sublime, shuffling rhythm. Major props to the Boys from Belfast, who've thought outside the box - certainly with the choice of Brassica - on this excellent remix package.
Review: By their standards, 2014 has been a relatively quiet year for Belfast boys Bicep, with a remix 12" and the Circles EP on Aus Music their only releases of note. "Lyk Lyk" is, then, a welcome return to action. The title track is particularly sweaty and once again mines vintage rave influences, with fluid synths and cut-up vocals riding a classic late '80s/early '90s breakbeat groove. "Poly Pineapple" is a little deeper, with waves of wide-eyed synths crashing over a thumping house groove. On the flipside, the duo join forces with partner-in-blogging Hammer for a couple of cuts; the woozy, glacial, synth-heavy "Icebowl" and "Day 3", a stomping chunk of retro-futurist techno smothered in 808 State style synths. Balearic techno anyone?
Review: Wind your memory reels back to September 2012 and Northern Irish pair Bicep unleashed Vision Of Love on their own newly established Feel My Bicep label. Since then Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar's project has arguably become a brand, they've released music on Will Saul's Aus label, played more festivals than Arnie's pumped pounds of iron at the gym and inspired a whole new generation of production talent. Just over a year since that FMB debut, Ferguson and McBriar return with a second 12" which is all set to match the records set by Vision Of Love. Lead track "Satisfy" discards with the 90s house aesthetic in favour of a breakbeat lead groove that's a bit 80s freestyle and a bit Baltimore club, whilst "Snackbar" demonstrates Bicep are increasingly willing to take a tougher approach - as anyone whose seen their recent techno heavy sets will attest. Head to "The Final Trip" for a taste of that classic pairing of jackin' 909 and Juno 60 in full flight.
Review: Northern Irish duo Bicep has built their production career on blending, repackaging and reimagining classic house influences. It's little surprise, then, to find that this latest 12" does the same. Hammer collaboration "Dahlia" sets the tone, combining the bold pianos of vintage Italian house with the kind of dreamy pads and snappy drum machine rhythms that recall the Halcyon days of late '80s/early '80s Balearic house. There's more of a sweaty warehouse feel about "Rays" - all yelping female vocal cuts, booming garage bass and skipping beats - while "Seagulls" sits somewhere between the two tracks, offering both bottom-end bump and eyes-closed sweetness.
Review: More sophisticated edit goodness from Dennis "Citizen" Kane's illicit re-edit imprint, now available digitally for the first time. The real killer here is "Strawberry", the Bicep boys' luscious rework of the Brothers Johnson's oft-overlooked cosmic disco jam "Strawberry Letter 23". It's an excellent edit, solidifying the lower end whilst losing none of the original's all-encompassing melodic charm. When the familiar melancholic refrain kicks in, you'll be in heaven. Kane himself also offers up two edits; the deliriously short (but brilliant) "Love" and "Magic", a riotous Balearic disco-funk nugget that will have the heads in a spin out on the floor.
Review: Polish power duo Catz 'N Dogz of the esteemed Pets recordings imprint take on three dynamic tracks from Will Saul's equally credible Aus Music and deliver their take. They certainly had their work cut out for them, but they deliver as always. Take for instance their booming, rusty and downright dusty rendition of "Geeeman's "Wanna Go Bang", their emotive deep electro version of Irish duo Bicep's "The Game" and of course their edit of ManMakeMusic head honcho George Fitzgerald's "Hindsight" where they get into some old school Relief Records style hard house business. All in all some very good tracks by Szczecin's favourite sons!?
Review: House DJs MYNC offer an exhaustive overview of the tracks that rocked the long-running White Island venue this summer. In the soulful corner, there's the Maxi Soundsystem take on Boris Dlugosch's "Look Around You". Featuring Roisin Murphy on vocals, it does a lot to sweep away the rainy autumn blues. Ten Walls deliver the trancey goods in the shape of "Gotham", which revolves around a belching bassline, but the most notable aspect of Ibiza 2013 is the way minimal producers have come into the house fold. Loco Dice borrows a prog house bassline for 'Detox' and Luciano's "Rise Of The Angel" - remixed here by Andrea Oliva - is a piano-led, wide eyed deep anthem.
Review: Making for a logical pairing, SMD and Bicep lock arms in an uplifting and bouncy jaunt through acidic basslines and emotive pads. Knowing how to cut the airy-fairy-ness and rip into a rock solid groove is a trait both parties are only too familiar with, and as such "Sacrifice" should be heard rocking out large-scale raves all over the shop with a considerable hit rate. Interestingly, the collaboration has given rise to not one but two separate ambient versions that make for a nice counterpoint to the main-room-baiting original mix, letting those fluffy elements waft out in blissful abandon.
Review: With trance music enjoying a current streak of vogue through club culture today it's important to remember legends of the past alongside what's going on now. In Search Of Sunrise volume 15 does exactly that by pitching artists like Jam & Spoon together with Jerome Isma-Ae in a Blade Runner-reminding remix to "Follow Me" - full of tension and release! Furthermore the compilation highlights the Gouryella project from Ferry Corsten with the epicly synth-drenched "Surga", while other bona fide numbers come from Markus Schultz, and Fonzarelli with '80s Italo disco trance throwback "In My Dream", while Peppemansion & Angelo Di Franco' are another highlight with their minimal burner "Mariposa". A secret weapon hidden deep within.
Review: If Mark Knight and Co. aren't busy enough celebrating Toolroom's big 15 year birthday at present (and its global parties in celebration of it), they've also found enough time for another mandatory volume in their esteemed Ibiza Underground series. With another collection of surefire hits and soon to be anthems that are sure to rock The White Isle this summer - this is all you need right here. A wide range of cuts (50 to be exact) that venture into darker territories come from the likes of New York duo Blondes on the fierce and broken "Quality Of Life" (Struction remix), the surprising addition of Scottish IDM wunderkind Lanark Artefax's "Touch Absence" (Intimidating Stillness mix), Dutch techno-bass merchant Martyn on the futuristic "Feel The Magnetism" and American retrovert Matrixxman on the tunnelling acid trip "Horizon". Rest assured that there's faire more typical of the label like Josh Butler, Franky Rizardo, Rick Wakley and birthday guests Booka Shade. For your convenience, the collection comes as two continuous mixes as well.
Review: The annual Toolroom statement of intent for Ibiza gets off to a raucous start with the good time house Camelphat remix of Fatboy Slim's "Right Here, Right Now". Despite this, the compilation isn't all about peak time pleasure. It features deeper nuggets like the sun-kissed deep techno remix of Bicep's "Opal" by Four Tet and the hypnotic break beat techno Kolsch remix of Nic Fanciulli's "Saying". However, Ibiza 2018 doesn't depart too far from the script, and label boss Mark Knight's "We Get High From the Music" is classic Toolroom - a tough tribal workout descending into filtered, vocal-heavy nirvana. That said, they deserve plaudits for keeping a close eye on new artists and the niggling acid and chimes of Peggy Gou's "It Makes You Forget" is testament to that.
Review: Toolroom sets out an ambitious programme for its annual Miami trip. Patrick Topping gets the party started with the diva vocals and crowd cheers of "Be Sharp, Say Nowt", a true good-time house tune, while a more considered but no less infectious take on vocal house is audible on The 2 Bears' "London Are You There?" and Bicep's wonderful electro-synth-led "Metro". However, this compilation isn't limited to house music: the OC & Verde remix of Eli & Fur's "Around You" is frosty Euro trance at its most memorable and Dubspeeka's "Lyssa" is a gorgeous piece of dubbed out, dreamy techno. Miami won't know what hit it.