Collide, bent but far from broken

collide band

Listening to electro duo Collide is a little like walking by the ocean; a quiet, calming ocean. But as with that aquatic environment, beneath the surface, there are currents to pull you in unexpected directions, rips to take you deeper. And that is what the mammoth remix double album Bent and Broken (Noiseplus), kindly downloaded to me by the band, has explored, tagging the essence and developing the core of the music to take it further. So not just those calming rhythms, but the crash and foam as well.

Prime example is ‘Chaotic’, from the 2008 album Two Headed Monster, itself a rollicking, infectious tune. There are three versions on Bent and Broken — one mesmerising with strings, another yet more chaotic with electro pop and whizz, the third even further ramped up with the fuzz into a dancefloor firecracker.

There are also three versions of ‘In the Frequency’, making it equal favourite for remixing, and two of four others. All up, there are 26 tracks split 15/11 on Bent and Broken, mostly reimagining Two Headed Monster and last year’s Counting to Zero (reviewed here): two hours of largely dreamy soundscape. There is also a sprinkling of new material: ‘Orgy’, a worthy cover of a The Glove song that makes the most of kaRIN’s understated snarl; straight-up Collide-style ‘Bent and Broken’, and a cinematic cover of Queen’s ‘She Makes Me’ featuring acoustic guitar.

Matched with Statik’s musical chops — this album’s production rewards listening through headphones — kaRIN’s vocals are one of Collide’s assets: distinctive, seductive, malleable, swinging from seductive to ominous to pacific.

So I probably could’ve done without the fast-forward/rewind whimsy of ‘kaRIN, You’re Not Yourself Today’, but it’s a single blip on an otherwise smooth journey.

collide album bend and brokenA highlight is dreamy ‘Lucky 13 (Damaged mix)’, ramped up with industrial stylings that provide a darker, almost ironic cast. It doesn’t surprise it comes courtesy of Android Lust, whose next album is being Kickstarted towards completion.

‘Tears Like Rain (Cloudburst mix)’, such an awesome line from the movie Blade Runner, here drops the pace into maudlin territory, gentle keys creating the soft pitter patter of hopes and dreams slowly melting; the Psych-Nein mix transports ‘Tears Like Rain’ into a casbah discotechque.

‘Clearer (Serrated Edge mix)’ is smoother than the name suggests, but has one of the heavier beats and widest ranges, from an almost industrial attack to minimal electronic hand claps.

And so on, with extra beats here, trip hop there; candlelight anthem here, dancefloor there.

The album closes with a seven-and-a-half-minute meditation of ‘Utopia’. Ahh.

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Collide’s Counting to Zero really does add up

American duo Collide remind me a little of Massive Attack, but the midnight version. I’ve got a promo copy of their latest and seventh studio album, Counting to Zero (Noiseplus), on high rotation, and their electro cruise is so smooth – find a place under the lasers in the fog and let your slo-mo bat-catching go wild. Suggested track: ‘Lucky 13’, suitably slinky beats with singer kaRIN hitting some sultry notes down low.

It doesn’t pay to get too complacent, though. They like a little mid-song pause, a little change of tempo, just to keep you on your toes. See ‘In the Frequency’ for a fine example: fuzz guitars making highlights, and a gradual fade to grey, setting up the heavier bass attack of ‘Clearer’.

kaRIN and programming partner Statik perpetuate their distinctive sound – her fetching pipes remain the lead instrument as the layers of music builds and fades in step – while pushing their studio savvy out all the speakers. There are shards of Vangelis, Goldfrapp, John Foxx, Portishead … some Middle Eastern notes, too. The album is both perfect mood music for a chill-out as well as a funky stereo-sound experience.

counting to zero by collide

The tone is set from the opener, the slow-building ‘Bending and Floating’, a doorway into a rich electronic landscape the name of which kind of says it all, really. Across the 11 tracks, the vocals do float above the electronic current, and there’s some bending going on, too: keyboard and strings on the exemplary title track with gorgeous guitar courtesy of Scott Landes, a quietly catchy lead track in ‘Mind Games’, a fractured electro snatch and grab in ‘Tears Like Rain’.

‘Human’ is a slow burn, kaRIN exercising some range to bring added emotion – “who’s going to fix you when you’re broken?” – to an outfit who can come across as sonically icy rather than fiery.

‘Further from Anything’, with Secret Meeting collaborator Dean Garcia (of delicious, departed Curve) on bass, changes gears nicely for a last-half jolt before the slide to the end, concluding with the poppy (and suitably named) closer, ‘Letting Go’.

With more than half the songs clocking in at more than five minutes, the album takes almost a full hour to unwind, and it can lull. kaRIN’s default vocal setting is a lullaby croon and it will take you away – to a good place.