Layo & Bushwacka! - Feels Closer
Love Story (vs Finally), whether in its original bootleg version or the Tim Deluxe remix that made the top ten, is one of those tracks that can't fail to get people moving on a dancefloor. Any future releases from Layo & Bushwacka! were going to have a lot to live up to in light of this mainstream success, not least in the eyes of a record company looking for a repeat hit. (After Love Story, vocals were grafted onto Shining Through, another tune from Night Works, but the result was less well received.) Perhaps this is why the duo decided to stick third album - so titled because of the connection they feel with it - out on their own label.
There's nothing here as commercial as that big single, yet this is still a poppier album than you might expect. For a dance act, especially one with an ongoing club residency, there's surprisingly little here to conjur images of a dark room heaving with sweaty bodies. Feels Closer was recorded in London, New York and Brazil; the sunshine of that latter country seems tangible almost throughout. Oh, half of the album is downtempo too.
Proceedings kick off with Life2Live, an infectious slice of house featuring the oddball vocals of Green Velvet. It is without a doubt the bounciest number included. Following straight after is the title track, having more of a techno feel, but with cracking live percussion courtesy of Mino Cinelu (who has worked with everyone from Miles Davis to Bruce Springsteen). Then comes Ride The Train, which isn't really fast-paced enough to work as dance, or laidback enough to work as chill-out. Instead it comes across as a rather too tasteful instrumental piece.
Many of the remaining tracks are jazz influenced. Best of the bunch We've Been Here Before is a funky blend of breaks and brass (at least until it mutates into something very different at the halfway point), while Isn't This A Lovely Day is a remix of an old Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong duet. Elsewhere, Sunshine In Ipanema and Saudade (Longing) bring a Latin flavour in their vocals, guitar and percussion. Hang Tough feels somewhat Arabic, a denser, more mysterious production.
Perhaps it's Layo & Bushwacka! maturing, but Feels Closer sacrifices tunes to jump up and down to in favour of worldly diversity. Some will no doubt find this disappointing. In that sense, it's more Groove Armada than Chemical Brothers; pleasant enough, though slightly lacking in major league excitement.