I’m not sure what to make of Clean Bandit, their fusion of classical instruments with house/electro sounds is both peculiar yet intriguing. The second I heard their huge single Rather Be, I said that it would be a number one track and sure enough it rocketed to the top of the charts, it’s still actually within the UKtop40 believe it or not, currently sitting at number twenty five, having spent twenty four weeks within the charts.
After listening to New Eyes, you really have to admire the group’s courage, but maybe more-so- their nerve. House music is all the rage at the moment, and there seems to be an ever-growing list of one-hit-wonders who follow the simple formulaic arrangement of instruments, resulting in summer jams like Faul’s Changes. Yet here Clean Bandit are, and they’re not prepared to conform to the convention of house. New Eyes shows flashes of genuine creativity and if you’re looking something particularly different then this may be the album to satisfy your tastes. Along with Rather Be, Telephone Banking is a highlight; it shows the group truly commit to their classically infused sound while pumping it full of contemporary warps of a synth, the somewhat contrapuntal arrangement of Stylo G’s vocals against the committed strings make for what I think the band was going for across the album, but only really managed to execute on a couple of tracks. Following track Up Again is another peak, it retains the likeable experimental feel but the strings just work more effortlessly and fluidly with the slower tempo of the song, unexpectedly the track ‘drops’ and despite a more upbeat construction around the halfway mark, the vocals retain the same slow tempo and what results is a great great song.
I love classical strings fused into mainstream genres- take the interlude from Kanye West’s Dark Fantasy, or the orchestration of Skrillex’s Bangarang EP, and when it works, it really works. But if anything Clean Bandit don’t do it enough, if you’re going to endeavour in the adventurous, somewhat daring style of music that they have, commit to it. Odd ‘raps’ from Nikki Cislyn as well as dips into reggae such as on the Stylo G-featured Come Over result in such a scattered album filled with assorted arrangements and bemusing inspirations. Clean Bandit were well and truly on to a winner, with their mainstream success they were primed to be at the forefront of something new and exciting, they’ve single-handedly curated this sound and just you watch- more and more producers will begin to feed off their creativity in the future.
As an finished project, New Eyes was unfortunately disappointing, as I touched upon above, they don’t commit to their invention and somewhat devalue their album by relying on things like autotune and rap verses that simply don’t work with their formula. Maybe that makes it too experimental, maybe there’s too much going on and it’s not clear what they’re looking to achieve from their debut. Clean Bandit need to go back to the drawing board, focus on where they want to take their music and keep on that track, they’re too tempted to dip into various assortments of music that in the end, results in their objective being lost in the fire.
Verdict – WW