New Eyes

by: Clean Bandit

The British electronic four-piece Clean Bandit mash classical music and pop forms for an airy and dreamy yet driven sound that's like the chamber music version of house music. It's a sound best experienced on "Mozart's House," a well-built number that opens the group debut effort New Eyes with some tasteful, ultra-sheen beats and some clever rapping ("Little touch up, pizzicato/Relax the tempo, sip some rubato/And if I get too animated/Tan my face with adagietto"), and all while the world of cheese is kept at arm's length. Clean Bandit are just too in love with music and too smart to let the songs fall into gimmicky Enigma territory, and they're too inventive to be easily explained off as something like Apocalyptica, the string quartet that plays Metallica numbers, but at an album's length, they're still challenged. The beautiful and precious "Dust Clears" sits next to the precious and beautiful "Rather Be" and as such, the album seems limited by the time the track count is five, plus their penchant for playing it diminutive and serene with occasional flourishes that flutter to the sky is embraceable at first, and maybe irksome after a bit. Myriad vocalists including Jess Glynne, Love Ssega, Lizzo, and Rae Morris help broaden the horizon and sound, and when sliced into two EPs, the micro-house and Mozart quotes feel wonderful together, losing none of their freshness. The good news is this special group wasn't corporately coerced into something ridiculous, but even with the mash-up "gimmick," New Eyes remains such a small, subtle, and soft record that by the end, it doesn't feel very daring or different. ~ David Jeffries

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