Back at the end of the last century, British DJs/producers seemed to rule the world.
Off the back of super clubbing and a renaissance for old skoolers such as Leftfield, the charts were littered with your Basement Jaxx, Morcheebas and Groove Armadas. Once subject to an argument between Elton John and Madonna about who discovered them first, during this golden period Andy Cato and Tom Findlay scored big hits with the likes of I See You Baby and Superstylin’ while discs of various colours arrived in the mail.
Having subsequently established the Lovebox Festival, they returned in 2010, engineering an unlikely critical comeback with Black Light and the accompanying remix project White Light. By then dubstep and grime had largely moved things on, but Edge Of The Horizon for the most part sounds like the pair have been in some sort of suspended animation for the last decade with, it has to be said, varying results.
One of Black Light’s revelatory features was its list of unlikely collaborators, which included Bryan Ferry, Will Young and Empire Of The Sun’s Nick Littlemore. Littlemore returns here for a turn on the opener Get Out On The Dancefloor, but the result is strangely neither groove nor rush, while his next outing on Tripwire has a thudding piano refrain but otherwise finds him similarly unable to spark his or anyone else’s mojo.
It’s a pedestrian start, but given GA’s audience has probably mellowed considerably with them, maybe not an unreasonable one. It’s easy to forget however that the pair were just as renowned for their sublime knack of taking things downtempo (hear: the gorgeous At The River) so it’s no surprise when the twilight R&B of We’re Free offers up an audio foot rub, while She Keeps Bees adds an unrequited something to the dreamy title-track.
Is background music for the weekly pub replacement Zoom what we should expect now then? Well, What Cha Gonna Do With Your Love duds out awkwardly, but like any good well-paced set, things gently start to warm up as we go on. As the Christmas Tree lights kick in, Lover 4 Now may have pinched its spiralling keyboard loop from Clio’s ace 80’s Italo-disco track Faces, but it struts and bounces like a puppy, while Talk Talk mines the ever-popular eighties’ tropes with just a hint of primitive early techno thrown in.
Even then, something’s missing. It’s questionable whether fans old or new will have the patience to wait until right to the end for a real banger to drop, but with Paris Brightledge adding enough diva to the serious house closer Dance Our Hurt Away, the big room switch is finally located, just in time.
Ten years is practically a lifetime away from the spotlight. Groove Armada have rediscovered a fair amount of the old magic on Edge Of The Horizon, taking us fast and slow, but the point is that however you dress it up, it’s still the old magic.