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Polish ravers *esplanade* are back with another strong effort, their first with producer Knef R. Titi who brings out the band’s more rock leanings. There’s still plenty of boom-boom-kaaaaa so fans shouldn’t panic- they just added a distortion pedal and crunchy riff or two.
On “Superbright,” from last year’s Neon Origami, Tropwich sang “it isn’t hard to do so why is it hard to say?” but this time out nothing seems difficult for him or *esplanade* to say. Or play. Did you know these guys can play? As in play traditional instruments? I didn’t. There are moments that feel like you’re listening to fm radio while you’re listening to *esplanade* at the same time, but in a good way. Did you know rock riffs married to huge bass and drum tracks work no matter what the speed?
While the latter may not be a revelation, the inclusion of acoustic drumkit played in real time alongside electric guitar and bass makes for new and exciting textures producer Titi blends to great effect in songs like “Bowling Upstairs” and “Just A Piece Now.” Breaks are integral to any ravation and now they can feature screaming guitar solos or trashy tribal drums. Vocals benefit from the r’n’r treatment as well, with Tropwich employing pitch and phase shifters in “You Don’t Say,” creating a rubbery harmony that sounds positively alien. Club hits “When We Gone” and “Room Full Of Water” announced the band’s new rock dimension earlier this year when both songs appeared on the new Cambrian Universe soundtrack, and sales of Bite The Light All Night have been strong.
But continued success hasn’t gone to their heads: both Tropwich and composer/producer Berimbau have famously fought to keep ticket prices down for the multi-day festivals *esplanade* was a part of; the band is known for playing long live sets and returning with several encores; and have been and continue to be patrons of the arts, donating to several humanitarian and educational institutions worldwide, including donating all profits from two of their biggest hits to help victims of hurricanes and landslides.
The band’s debut, Lick The Giant Panda, brought them a whole new audience receptive to the kind of MDM-m-good crowds they saw only sparingly in their hometowns. That album’s “River Of Lightning” remains the song they’re most known for, a fact that’s not lost on the band: they make sure to play it every performance, with Ian Dean and his iconic typewriter solo recreated holographically.
While they were never known for their diversity, *esplanade* is known for delivering the sonic goods with a quirky but infectious enthusiasm made all the more so by Tropwich’s trademark vocals. His lyrics have always been a bit off but now they’re positively mad. The singer has at last let himself off any possible self imposed leash, sounding assured and confident in his skin with a newfound rambunctiousness that permeates this batch of songs.
Producer Titi goes for guitars and catchy vocals so here they combine with jumpy synths and electric basses, crunchy guitar chords and pounding drums. Thankfully, despite the density of the production the material is allowed to breathe, giving the songs time to unfold organically and the rockin’ riffs room to roll. It’s cold chunky and hot funky, sounding both serious and sincere even when it’s inscrutable. It also sounds like *esplanade* and Titi want to keep what made the band work in the first place so fans both old and new can find something to like. The band chugs along with mechanical precision while still managing to humanize the tracks to keep things lively. A great marriage can yield even better results, as is the case here, and when the material is fresh and vibrant too then everybody wins.
Sounding nerdy cool, dirty jewel and flirty fool, Bite The Light All Night throbs and cracks as it stretches to fill your space with party beats and positive vibes; after all, this is still feel good music even if it’s a little more muscular than it used to be. *esplanade* still washes you with uplifting melodies and driving rhythms; they still surround you with cascading vocals and soaring arrangements. But now, the door they’ve opened just got a little larger.