Chicane ‎– The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts




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September 10, 2016
referencing The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts, CD, Album, MODENACD7
There's something a bit disappointing about the fact that since she performed on the soundtrack to The Gladiator, Lisa Gerrard has been featured on tracks that sound quite a bit like the soundtrack to The Gladiator. For me, her finest moment in electronic music is the sample used on FSOL's Papua New Guinea. That piece captured the haunting ethereal nature of her incredible voice, without sounding like a cliche.

Nick Bracegirdle employs her vocals on two tracks on ...The Sum of its Parts, Chicane's sixth (or seventh, if you count ETA) album, and the fourth album in a row that sees him in a creative rut. Much like the Sigur Rós-aping pieces on previous album, Thousand Yard Stare, these Gerrard tracks end up not really sounding like Chicane, with the music around them seemingly written to fit her voice. Thus, we have 38 Weeks, which is an even worse treatment of her voice than Orbital's incredibly disappointing One Perfect Sunrise; and Orleans, which continues the Gladiator-esque vibe, with Bracegirdle's synths reducing the whole thing to a hideous new age vibe. He's capable of writing moody, atmospheric music - why not write a classic atmospheric Chicane sounding track and incorporate her voice into it somehow? Her time with Dead Can Dance showed just how versatile she is as a vocalist and musician.

Elsewhere, things fare even worse. The now typical ambient opener, Église, is another emotional void of new-age schlock, whilst the rest of the album is almost laughably anonymous. For a man whose debut album was largely built around intricately programmed drum'n'bass-style rhythms, the rigid nature of the beats on ...The Sum of its Parts is somewhat absurd. There's much to be done with the standard four-to-the-floor format, but here - and, indeed, on many of Bracegirdle's productions for the past few years - we are stuck with the same digital sounding kick/snare/hat loop on almost every song. I'm not sure if he's hoping that DJs will clock on and realise they can simply play several of his tracks back-to-back seamlessly without anyone noticing; I certainly can't imagine the creative sterility that would lead to such a "that'll do" frame of mind. And whilst the trademark Chicane synth (think the breakdown in Don't Give Up) is present on many tracks, there are plenty of forays into modern EDM cliches. Loads of blaring synth stabs, anonymous vocalists, forgettable lyrics.

The album's only saving grace is the cover of Tritonal's Still With Me, a wonderfully haunting piece with a beautifully restrained vocal from Bo Bruce. The Disco Citizens remix exists here (although it's been a long time since there was any noticeable difference between DC and Chicane), which sadly substitutes the syncopated drums of the Van Hoog remix (Bracegirdle's only good drum programming in years), but incorporates a really gorgeous synth line. All three versions of the song from the single are excellent in their own way, and it's probably the most classically Chicane sounding song in years - the depressing irony being he didn't even write it.

As said before, Chicane is well into a run of disappointing albums. If Somersault felt like a watered down, poppy version of Chicane, Giants wasn't the return to form people were hoping for, and Thousand Yard Stare was a bit of a mid-life crisis attempt to sound like someone a lot 'cooler', they all, at least, sounding like Nick Bracegirdle was trying. On ...The Sum of its Parts, it sounds like he's given up. No effort is evident on this album, just depressingly generic club music punctuated by poor attempts at ambient.

Still, it's something to be said for the first two Chicane albums that people like myself are still listening and caring. And hoping, one day, to get something that deserves to be placed alongside them. Until then, I'll add Still With Me to my playlist of later Chicane songs that I actually like. I think I'll go with the Original Drift Mix, though.