No Geography

No Geography

If No Geography is The Chemical Brothers' most daring album in 20 years—and it is—that’s partly due to Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons tapping back into the mid-’90s, a time when they were helping to radically redefine the possibilities for UK dance music. To sow that spirit of experimentalism into their ninth album, the pair exhumed the old samplers they used to make their first two albums. “I set up a corner of my studio that was ‘The 1997 Corner,’” Tom tells Apple Music. “It was very rudimentary, the sort of thing that I’d have set up in my bedroom a long time ago. There’s a particular sound in these old samplers, and their limitations spur you being more creative in how you use samples and throw things together.” Another inspiring throwback was to play unfinished music in their live sets, allowing the songs to evolve and change on stage, as they had done while making 1995’s Exit Planet Dust and Dig Your Own Hole in 1997. The result is uplifting, aggressive, and contemplative, meshing breakbeats, samples, and multiple shades of dance music with a keen understanding of psychedelia and melody. Here, Tom takes us through the album track by track. “Eve of Destruction” “I saw [Norwegian alt-pop singer-songwriter] Aurora on TV, playing at Glastonbury, and I was blown away by the power of her voice and the raw feel she had. She came to the studio and we had such an inspiring time. She was so open to ideas and so full of ideas. She came up with Eve of Destruction as a character, this goddess of destruction. It starts with a discordant voice, but as the track grows, it turns into celebration. The response to this foreboding, forbidding nature of the lyric is to cut loose, to come together, go out and find a friend and be with other like-minded people.” “Bango” “Aurora’s response to playing her bits of music was so unexpected, brilliant, and inspiring. [For ‘Bango’] I’d play her something and she’d come back and with angular words and ideas about unbalanced relationship dynamics and gods bringing thunder upon you. That's the excitement of collaborating with someone—arriving at something that neither of you could have thought of on your own.” “No Geography” “The vocal sample is from a poem by Michael Brownstein, a ’70s New York poet. They did this series called the Dial-A-Poem Poets where you could phone up and have poets read to you. That bit seems to be dealing with the idea that the physical geography between people is not a barrier to their connection. But, yeah, on a bigger scale it’s saying something about people being connected and how we all share something together. It’s recognizing that we are codependent on each other, I suppose.” “Got to Keep On” “You’ve got the sparkly drums and the ‘Got to keep on making me high’ sample [from Peter Brown’s ‘Dance with Me’] and then it has this strange, off-kilter moment in the middle, which was a late night in the studio making everything as deranged as it can be—everything feeding back and all the machines squealing. It’s too much, basically. And when it’s too much, it’s just enough. And then it kind of resolves out and the bells come in. We love to have these really intense kind of psychedelic moments in our music and then it resolves into a joy—you’ve come through it, almost. It’s something that feels very natural to us.” “Gravity Drops” “This is the first breathing moment of the record, really. It’s got heavy beats but the music is moving around, and then you’ve got very full-on d-d-d-drong bits. It all comes from setting up the studio to play it live—we set up lots of instruments and processors so we can play it as a kind of jam and then see where we get to. This is definitely made of trying to have those sections where it just freaks us out. And then we go, ‘Yes, it’s freaked us out.’” “The Universe Sent Me” “Aurora really made this by coming up with these amazing images. Sonics-wise, there are a lot of ideas and a lot of movement. There are moments where it almost feels that whole thing has gone too far, the way it builds and then you’re back down. It’s a rolling psychedelic journey, for want of a better word.” “We’ve Got to Try” “This reminds me of records that we would play at [legendary London club night] The Social when we first started. We’d play quite a lot of soul next to mad acid records. When we were making this track, it really reminded me of that—this idea that we were trying to reach for but never really realized in our own music. If this song had arrived in our record bags, we’d have gone, ‘Wow! This is the sound of what we want to play.’” “Free Yourself” “This samples another Dial-A-Poem poet, Diane di Prima. We loved hearing that vocal in a nightclub. It was exciting to build a new context for that song, to have a new meaning. We played it live a lot in 2018, and that really fed into how the final thing turned out. It’s also got that ‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah’ kind of noise. We just like instant delirium noises.” “MAH” “Once, we would probably have felt this was too big a sample to use [the line 'I’m mad as hell and I ain’t going to take it no more' from El Coco’s ‘I’m Mad as Hell’]. But the excitement of playing it live and the release of the music after the vocal was an amazing moment. Even though we're not the kind of artists who will be very explicit in what they're feeling, the record was made in a time when, every day, you had constant national discussion and arguments going on. Even though we’re speaking through a sample, another sentiment from another time, when we made the song and put this whole feeling together, it was like, ‘Yeah, that somehow relates to how I'm feeling today.’” “Catch Me I’m Falling” “One of the sampled vocals is by Stephanie Dosen–we worked with her on Further and the score for Hanna–from a Snowbird track, which is her and Simon Raymonde, who used to be in the Cocteau Twins. The other is from [Emmanuel Laskey’s] ‘A Letter from Vietnam,’ this very emotive song from 1968. Stephanie’s singing in a different way—in a different room, in a different time—but the music we've written somehow brings these two disparate things together and makes new sense out of them. But it only makes sense if the thing at the end of it is something you want to listen to, something that moves you.”

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