Empirion broke their silence last year with the I Am Electronic/Red Noise EP, their first new material in nearly two decades. Granted, the duo of Austin Morsley and Jamie Smart had reformed the band back in 2011 for live shows, but it was great to finally get some new tunes. And what tunes they were too! Not only were they absolute belters, but it made a strong statement; that they were ready once again to dominate dancefloors. It set a strong precedent for the upcoming album.
And here we are, Resume has finally landed, ready to grace our ears! The first thing you might notice when adding this to a playlist, is it’s grandiose runtime. In just 11 tracks, it tallies up at a mammoth 80 minutes! You’d think that this would make things a slog, and I’d normally call records that last over an hour exhausting, but I didn’t get that effect here. The music is injected with so much adrenaline, and the transitions are so silky smooth, that I found myself barley noticing the time fly by. Somehow it remains gripping, and keeps the listener within it’s grasp up until the final note plays out.
Title track “Resume” starts off with ambient sounds, like wind blowing round a barren wasteland. Eerie tones fade in, as if a sentient machine is booting up, coming to life, which I suppose serves as an excellent metaphor of the band themselves. The gritty bleeps become more progressive, as droning tones are introduced, before chunky bass and a catchy industrial beat smoothly slide into the mix. Layers upon layers keep getting built around this, creating intricate textures, as the steady pace drives it forward. “S.E.T.I” has an air of old-school rave to it. From the tone of the drumbeats, to the style of the addictive melody, it could be mistaken for a classic tune, if it weren’t for the raw machine-like edge that has been carved into it. Empirion have clearly put their mark on it, and the additional vocoded vocals increase the mesmerising nature of this track. “They’re in My Dreams” continues to up the ante, as the progressive rhythm builds up the energy to even higher levels. There are what feels like an endless amount of soundscapes that are bound encapsulate the listener into it’s hooks. A barrage of effects that are akin to laser fire only enhance this further, as it intersects. By it’s end, the beats and synths become much heavier, transforming it into a much more aggressive track. “Red Noise” feels familiar, and considering it featured on the aforementioned EP from last year, it should too. This one still packs as much of a punch as it did back when it released, and it’s perfectly slotted in at song 4 on the record. The sexy rhythm is still what defines this track, alongside it’s distorted electro and bulky bass. It does feel like it has been extended, and some extra additions help to spruce it up even more, keeping it fresh. “Too Many Masters Pt.2” has so much going on within it. It begins with a synth that’s domineering in tone, the style echoing that of retro sci-fi films about totalitarian society. The clever sampling backs this theme up well. Suddenly, it gives way to a hypnotic, continuous beat that pounds through, as ambience sneaks in from the background, sounding almost like sirens. A space-like melody breaks things up, before it goes into overdrive with heavily beefed up sounds. There’s a constant shift between the two styles, as if they’re at war, it’s a great dynamic. By the end, there’s even angelic female vocal harmonies (provided beautifully by Lucia Holm), as it reaches epic proportions.
Out of all the tracks on the record, I’d say this one is probably the heaviest, making the title extremely apt. It’s literally a side swipe in it’s sonic qualities [“Side Swipe”]
The aura generated in “Stepper”, in combination with bursts of static style electronics, sound like an otherworldly being is trying to communicate. There’s then a barrage of glorious techno melodies that are an attack on the senses, all complete with machine-gun-like flurries. There’s a high-octane pace to it, that intensifies as the track progresses. “Side Swipe” becomes even more razor-sharp in it’s tones, with blaring synths that sound like alarm systems going haywire. In any other situation the sampling would come across as obnoxious, but here it compliments the harsh nature of the music. The deep, dirty bass that is present wraps this all up into a neat, violent package. Out of all the tracks on the record, I’d say this one is probably the heaviest, making the title extremely apt. It’s literally a side swipe in it’s sonic qualities! The rhythm practically chugs in “Lock It Down”, as it continues to build up, each layer of distortion creating more of an exciting vibe. I’m pretty sure there’s guitar riffs in there too, but that may simply be the sheer ferocity of it throwing me off. The constant pounding beat helps to propel this forward, keeping it lively throughout. Then it’s time for yet another track from last years massive EP, “I Am Electronic”. The melding of vocoded vocals, silk melodies and rhythms, alongside an old-school industrial techno style make this one a winner. It’s an anthem in it’s own right. “Adsr” is filled with synths that sound like they could be taken from right out of a retro video-game, especially with the stuttered vocal samplings and robotic voices. There are low-fi qualities to the electro elements, which is what enhances this feeling. Additional vocals that are introduced later on feel very reminiscent of Daft Punk, and make the track more unusual, in the best ways possible. “Hate the Hate” is a strange, and disturbing way to end the album on. It’s not bad, just unexpected. It has tribal elements in the mix, at times feeling very organic, yet there’s a sinister mood it creates. This all becomes clear when the sampling comes into play, which depicts racial tensions. The political statements are loud and clear on this one. At times it’s haunting, at others it becomes quite visceral. Not how I pictured things wrapping up, but it’s certainly a bold statement.
Perhaps that bold statement is quite a fitting way to end Resume. After all, the record in itself is a bold one. It felt like Empirion were preparing to dominate dancefloors with their EP last year and, if anything, their dominance is assured now. Even after so long, they’ve not only proven that they can still deliver anthemic music, but they are able to hold the attention of the listener. It’s like a well engineered machine, carefully crafted and refined, as the beats and rhythms range from mesmerising, to euphoric. It captures the essence of old-school techno, mixing it together with industrial qualities, sprinkling in modern elements to contextualise it all for the current age. The resulting effect is something refreshing, yet familiar at the same time.
Resume is a journey, one that feels like it takes on a life of it’s own. I could honestly close my eyes whilst listening to this, picturing a club drenched in moody UV lighting, as boots stomp away on hard floors, with the occasional strobe-light assault added in for good measure. Honestly, these tracks are going to go down a storm in club settings, they’re just begging to be played to such an audience. This is not just an album, it’s one of the hottest club-nights of the year, and we’re all invited.
Final verdict: Empirion triumph with Resume, returning in full force, and assuring their dominance on dance floors. Don’t let it’s mammoth run-time fool you, because you’ll be hooked throughout. This is one of the hottest club-nights of the year!