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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Joe Goddard (Hot Chip): Harvest Festival album review

Joe Goddard has taken a musical sabbatical from Hot Chip to create a veritable fruit smorgasbord of electro tracks on an album which is an indulgent, unashamed homage to the sounds closest to his heart, using the musical toys he likes to play with best.

With 12 tracks each named after fruit, the engine room of Hot Chip has placed his tongue firmly in cheek with first solo offering, Harvest Festival. And to tell the truth, if it’s treated a bit like a two-part DJ set rather than an album to pontificate over, the burly big friendly giant has created a drum machine throbbing, synthesized concoction which is really pretty good.

 The first step is to turn the way a traditional album is listened to on its head, the next is to free yourself of the normal expectations that come with that setup. This album doesn’t start with the barnstormers, slow it down, pick it up a bit and leave the almost-didn’t-make-its until the end. But then Harvest Festival is not like a DJ set either, even though it more resembles that type of format with its build up to a crescendo, before a clear break half way through for a swift change in musical direction.

The first three album tracks are rather like the warm up. On first listen they can easily be dismissed, but new single, Apple Bobbing, and Tinned Apricot are deep, slow burning house numbers with 80s synth touches – quite reminiscent of earlier decade James Zabiela work. The less favourable techno inspired Pear Shaped follows.

Building, the album climbs to Strawberry Jam with a bit of dubstep and drum machine before an all-out hands in the air moment is dropped. Go Bananas has cleverly worked off beat rhythms, a throbbing bassline and vocal hook, “And party and bullshit”.

The thing that makes Harvest Festival more palatable for an iPod listen is the fact that Goddard has successfully managed to break most of the tunes down into chunks to weave elements in and out and keep the interest. This is intelligent electro, not Calvin Harris.

With Half-Lime Oranges comes a break in pace and a signal for a more familiar, soulful Hot Chip direction and the clear stand out track of the album, Lemon & Lime (Home Lime) is up next. The loveable bear’s vocals are soothing and sleepily happy as he declares, “It feels like home time, it’s getting light and you know, I will get to you tonight”. That added to an almost two-step type beat and soft keyboards combine to make a really surprisingly stunning track.

Next is Tropical Punch – an Aphex Twin, Radiohead Kid A Idioteque track which you yearn to hear Thom Yorke’s vocals and lyrical profundity over the top of. Sour Grapes continues the slower pace and takes a vaguely similar road, but is a real journey of a track building to a sinister, church organ hook which is thoroughly consciousness-infiltrating.

Pineapple Chunk and Coconut Shy unfortunately sit in the background; perhaps because they do sound quite distant, unconnected and lacking in direction unlike the rest.  

The fact Joe Goddard has made his own album really hammers home the realisation of just what an essential cog in the well-oiled Hot Chip machine he is. Harvest Festival is far from a nifty little side project. It might sound a bit unfinished in places but nevertheless is a really good example of funky, deep, electro which explores other branches under the dance umbrella, from dubstep to moody house, with even some touches of hip hop and Warp-label ambient techno.

I imagine he will suffer from comparisons with Hot Chip, which is fair enough because if no one is allowed to measure the quality of his solo work to his own band then what should be the yardstick? This does however trump his fellow band mate, Alexis Taylor’s first solo offering by a mile and whilst his tunes are clearly a ‘Chip’ (couldn’t resist it) off the old block, Joe Goddard has so much more to offer than expected, as does this album.

Reviewed for www.themusicmagazine.co.uk

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