Thursday, 21 June 2012

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble


My first ever showcasing of Oxford-born producer/DJ/musician Orlando Higginbottom's music - a name trumped only by the likes of his decided-upon alias, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - was during the support-act warm-up at the Newcastle O2 in December of last year where Friendly Fires had kept to their promise of playing, after the original date had been cancelled and rescheduled. Higginbottom, dressed in an almost luminescing radiant green dinosaur costume - stood behind his stack of synths, keyboards and equipment much like any other concert performer - presented to the slightly curious, slightly drunk masses a glittering array of upbeat electronica so jestingly craving, it was almost baffling to suspect this was the support rather than the main event. When my mind wasn't tagged to the sumptuous beats - or even the female dancers, likewise dressed in dinosaur costumes, appearing now and again to add some intriguing avant-garde-like expression of dance amidst the audio - it was pinned squarely on what this young university-city diversifier would come up with next.

Seven months later and the World has finally caught ear of TEED's surging likability - a certain Nokia advert trying desperately to associate the guy's music with a sort of care-free 'fuck the normality, let's have fun' socio-cultural placement. While the same can't be said for Finland's #1 phone company and their lame excuse to push their new products in our faces, Orlando Higginbottom is a man who can gladly be associated with the much simpler and digestible concept of all-round 'fun'. 'Trouble', TEED's debut release follows on from a series of well-received singles and EPs and builds itself as a culmination of a young producer's colorful take on wide-scoped electronic sound.

This is a man who isn't afraid to diversify with different angles and projections of sound, and he makes his point quite clear in the tracks this album is compiled by. 'Promises' opens up the record with a hop and skip of synths, vocals providing a very dreamy and cloudy ambience to what is already an energetic pacing. It's a very simple beat in the long-run, but Higginbottom's vocals provide that much-needed extra dimension to the music which in this corner of music, is vital if one is to keep a similar level of interest. 'Trouble' follows up with the same passion of electro analog-driven synth sounds - the likes of Ceephax Acid Crew the first name to pop into my head, as I naturally find myself attempting a reference point with the music I'm hearing. As the song progresses, the song gets a bit more bubbly and tropic in its diverging instrumentation, the synths appearing to let loose as percussion begins to become the driving factor of the track.

While it's clear to see Higginbottom's interest and affection for house and electro amidst the gorgeous warmth and flutter of his music, it's more comforting - and appropriate to bring attention towards - that this is an album not limited to said corners and sub-genres of electronic music. And it goes beyond the bright and wonderful presentation that marks Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs as both an act and a compose in equal measure. 'Household Goods' sees the album slide more in the direction of house, and more focally, into the contemporary market of upbeat dance music. But what sets this track aside from your atypical three/four-minute floor-filler is the way the track is able to quickly move between upbeat hooks of synths and the recognizable drive into his more sonic volumes of drum and electric enormities. And again, it's the vocals here - in all their dreamy glow - that leads the progression and transgression into a euphoria that's neither consuming nor stale.

'You Need Me On My Own' while paints itself as a more melancholic and somber take on a sound that usually associated with being upbeat and rhythmic, actually manages quite successfully to keep a sort of glittery atmosphere to its sound. Despite Higginbottom murmuring in-between the sails of electronics: 'I can be alone/And still picture you', his musical skills are a lot more impacting to the point where I can almost imagine the Oxford musician sitting in his bedroom beneath a decorative clutter of records and music posters celebrating the best of 90s dance. But the important thing here is that this is an album with no intent on purely standing as a look back on the past. Rather, it takes inspiration from it and pitches its sound into a wider demographic of positive upbeat sounds that are charming yet provoking in all their wondrous shades of tone and pitch. 'Garden' is without a doubt Higginbottom's finest moment on the album. What starts off as a seemingly minimal techno-orientated gymnasium-suited mustering of energy, is actually limitless in where its placement may lie. Whether it's the faint vocals and keyboard twitches fitting for a bedroom environment, or the follow-on bumbling of synths thereafter more accustomed to an outdoor care-free setting, the track has no visible parameters of hinderance or objection. It's a composition that can be enjoyed anywhere, anyhow - the unification of techno, pop, house and electro making this more than just a jolly rallying of emotions that too, is a memorable mark in the album's overall sound.

And this is, by far, the most recognizable and potentially most talked-about factor concerning Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. It's increasingly difficult to categorize this sound in such a way that it becomes easy to filter down into a unifying corner of electronic music. Not that this is a case of pigeon-holing or the like, but it makes the task of attempting to name a single genre or corner of sound, almost impossible. The reason for this, plain and simple, is Higginbottom's talent of evolving his sounds into a sort of collage of differing ideas and inspirations, and it does nothing but bring admiration to the guy's field of thinking. In the final stretch of the record, we find the man playing with more relaxed and ambient pockets of household interior electronics. 'American Dreams Part II' starts off quite hypnotically with an edge of resurgent 70s experimentalism to its sound. However, this is only a means of catalyzing Dinosaur's upbeat house vibe that leads on straight-after. Here, however, the delivery is more continuous and reeling, the hook of a glitchy patterned synth leaving a wavy texture floating aloft across the foreground. The background however is left to the work of Higginbottom's playful ambience of analog sounds.

'Stronger' the album closer while is the most bare of the fourteen tracks on this album, is by no means the weakest or recognizable in the context of it being weak. Rather, it feels less like an album-ender and more like it's ready to open into a second round of Higginbottom's distant trailing of mutterings and similarly twirling dance sounds. Even if the man's lyrics are somewhat limited in content, it's the disco-friendly hooks and the just-as-friendly execution and lead-in on every part that showcases Dinosaur's talents at making electronics for both a consumer of said music, and one more accustomed to the flow and pacing of it too. Hell, the use of what sound like cow bells - or some means of a hollow percussion - in the progressive midst of things actually gives the track that little bit more buzz and excitement about the music. Thinking about it, I guess you could say this is a clever part on the artist's thinking (intentional or not): the placement on the album's track-listing; the way a track suited more to the middle or even the opening leads, ends up being put last. It only makes someone like myself long for more like this. And while I'd hope Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs continues on this theme of branching out ideas in sound only to unify them together, the truth is that I'd be quite happy with more of the same, to an extent. 'Trouble' is a remarkable collection of debut ideas that are considerate of both the past and the present in equal measure. Orlando Higginbottom may not be the most easy and accessible name to exchange in music circles - and neither will his alias, for the right reasons - but in this field of music, names mean next to nothing. The important thing is the delivery, and the delivery here is both promising, and immense.
~Jordan

8.3

2 comments:

  1. Great Review. It took a while to find any concert reviews of this guy!

    ReplyDelete
  2. And i just linked to your article, hopefully google will give you some juice.

    ReplyDelete