Pleasant to be around but not much of a distraction, this has its place.
Matthew Horton 2010
It’s quite a surprise to see a new album from Chicane. Nick Bracegirdle and occasional supporting cast were last seen releasing a greatest hits set - The Best of Chicane 1996-2008 – a suitable time to put a cap on a career in anyone’s book, and before that were a measly three albums in a decade. Trance acts were never meant to have much of a shelf-life or much of a profile at all, but Bracegirdle obviously feels that Chicane have something more to give.
What that is isn’t entirely clear, as Giants doesn’t bring anything obviously new to the table. Chicane found their niche early, with 1996 debut single Offshore defining the Euro-trance sound as well as the sonic palette Bracegirdle would continue to draw from for a decade or more. The thing is, Offshore could slip onto Giants without a whiff of a 2010 remix; the same insistent pulse still drives the majority of tracks, the same softly parping synths, the same unthreatening ambience.
That’s all good if you’re soundtracking an Ibiza sunrise, and let’s face it, much of this will. Chicane themselves haven’t taken a bow there since 2002, but mild yet insinuating single Middledistancerunner, featuring a lovely relaxed turn from Owl City’s Adam Young, could provide a triumphant return – and we all know Poppiholla, Bracegirdle’s rejig of Sigur Rós’s Hoppípolla, turning drama into lullaby. It’s heard here in a more soothing mix, subtitled 5am for good dawn-on-the-beach reasons, and melts into the general drift.
Taken as a whole then, Giants is a rather bloodless affair, emphasising taste and mood over thrills and spills. But there’s the odd jolt. Gary Numan’s Cars riff shakes you out of torpor on Hiding All the Stars, and reality show soulman Lemar offers up his best Seal impression on the second part of What Am I Doing Here?. He’s convincing too, bringing heart to a pretty slow-burner. Then there’s Come Back, a more dynamic house track built around a sample from Paul Young’s clunky 1983 hit Come Back and Stay.
And that’s just it – guest input and borrowed themes are the real liveners here. Otherwise, Giants is an unobtrusive backdrop, pleasant to be around but not much of a distraction. It has its place.