808 State – Outpost Transmission

Album Review by Mark Bayross

It’s been well over a decade since Manchester’s 808 State first began their assault on the UK’s clubs (and, for a while, the charts) – after all, their career-defining album 808:90 was released in 1989. However, since 1996’s DON SOLARIS, not much has been heard from the trio, bar the occasional limited release, a “best of” and some sterling production work from Graham Massey.

The fact that this, their sixth album proper, opens with a reference to PACIFIC STATE shows that nothing much has changed – 808 State are still producing machine music that’s as mind-blowing as it is catchy. Much like their southern contemporaries Orbital, this is brain massaging music that can make you dance – whirring effects, solid beats and layer upon layer of warm synths.

The band can still wrangle some interesting sounds out of their kit, from the recurring wobbly oriental sounds that have been 808’s trademark, to the kind of huge-sounding blasts of electro that they perfected on early 90s hits like IN YER FACE and CÜBIK – check the funky wet beats on WHEATSTRAW or the colossal bass on BOOGIEMAN. Elsewhere, tracks like LUNGFOO show that 808 State haven’t lost the knack of producing what sound like fantastic themes to imaginary spy movies.

As with their previous albums, there are singer collaborations: Simian’s Simon Lord opens the album with the epic 606; Guy Garvey from Elbow croons on the atmospheric LEMONSOUL; and the two heads of the Alabama 3 collective lend their malevolent tones to the claustrophobic CROSSWORD. Not quite as stellar as Bernard Sumner or Björk, but just as effective.

OUTPOST TRANSMISSION is a pretty spectacular return to form from one of the UK’s most influential electronic bands, with plenty of diverting twists and turns, plenty of hypnotic beats and oodles of off-kilter melody. Highly recommended.

5 stars

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