Hardly essential, but a worthwhile companion to the excellent-in-places Black Light.
Mike Diver 2010
Twelve years on from their debut LP, the At the River-featuring Northern Star, Groove Armada are hardly the cool cats they were when chill-out compilations cluttered record store racks and every high street bank, car manufacturer and holiday operator wanted a slice of their sun-kissed ambient magic to soundtrack the flogging of their own wares. 2002’s Lovebox, the duo’s fourth LP, began their commercial decline, but despite slipping out of mainstream affection this year’s Black Light collection reminded listeners that Andy Cato and Tom Findlay are capable of much more than a few throwaway dancefloor fillers and laidback, coffee-table concoctions.
Said album, their sixth in total discounting remix and compilation affairs, featured flashes of genuine genius. Its closer, History, found the pair coax the kind of chart-topping (in a parallel universe, anyway) performance from Will Young that the talent show superstar hadn’t managed in years, and fellow singles Look Me in the Eye Sister and Paper Romance were massive, bouncy, glee-igniting numbers of utmost excellence. And now Black Light has a companion set, White Light containing nine tracks that complement the 11 of its immediate predecessor.
These aren’t remixes of what came before, more reinterpretations (plus a new song, the silken disco strut of 1980), and a sequencing moving the album in a new direction – one that leads to instant gratification, whereas before some of these cuts were harder work. Paper Romance is a great case in point. The Black Light version takes its time preparing for takeoff, and arguably never quite ascends the heights it’s capable of; here, it’s streamlined and focused, its chorus the size of a sub-continent and the rush of euphoria it generates in the already-in-the-zone clubber is sure to be a peak of any night’s revelry. History appears twice, the parting shot of its Love mix a downbeat full stop, the necessary comedown, at the end of a series of tracks designed with physical appreciation firmly in mind. If Black Light was the accompaniment to a night’s drinking at a cool basement bar, White Light is the festival crowd-pleaser best heard with paper cups of lager in hands and silly hats on fuzzy heads.
Make no mistake, White Light is a far from essential addition to Groove Armada’s sizeable catalogue; but if Black Light had your dimmer switches almost on full, this follow-on release will have the bulbs glowing brighter than they’ve ever done.