When Bicep made the transition from disco bloggers to festival-headlining electronic music giants on their self-titled debut album three years ago, it felt like the completion of a 10-year masterplan. But on follow-up Isles, you feel the London-based Belfast duo aren’t entirely sure where to go next.
The record builds on the template of their debut – infectious synth lines, breakbeats and low-key ambient influences – but turns the melancholia and sense of foreboding up several notches.
Citing growing up on different sides of the religious divide in Belfast as a major influence and reflecting on the remarkable journey the pair have made since, Isles definitely feels like the product of some deep introspection. But the result is that nearly every track feels like it’s been tailor-made to elicit some quasi-religious exaltation from a crowd when dropped as the final track at Printworks or during a festival headline set.
That’s not to say the album is without merit, though. There’s an impressive broadening of the Bicep sonic palette and the tracks featuring guest vocalist Clara La San are both standouts. Plus singles Apricots and Atlas are both rightly on their way to sitting alongside Glue and Just as fan favourites. But when taken as a whole, Isles just weighs a little too heavily.