In 1998 there was a lot of competition for Big Beat Electronica. The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim had all dabbled in it. This was the only album by the Propellerheads, but is seen as a classic from the genre. Is it any good in retrospect? Let’s find out.
We begin with Take California which is a seven minute long piece. It begins with some scratched vocals, before going into a bass melody. Some more scratched vocals then enter, before some really awesome beats kick in. This is really excellent from the go. Acid style melodies enter, and this piece gets underway. The whole thing is very nice and punchy. Many elements and melodies go through this track, and it sounds really amazing. It is a great start to this album, and just sounds really different (in a good way) and fresh, too. Some organ style sounds are here in the background, before coming into the foreground of the mix. The melodies here are outstanding, this is EDM for those who like Rock music. In the second half is a straightforward melody, before the bass and drumbeats re-emerge. A fresh and funky listen, this is really amazing. Not bad for an epic styled track. Legendary. The mixture of melodies and beats here are amazing. A fine tune, and a great listen from start to finish.
Following up straight away is Echo & Bounce which begins with some weird Acid style melodies, before launching into more beats. This piece is very good as well, with a mixture of subtle bongos and melody sensibility. It is very interesting listening, with alternating sections and different melodies to grab your attention. In the middle of this is an Acid style breakdown. The repeated vocal sample of the title track then kicks in, before going into a less intense second half, whilst still being interesting. Another brilliant listen, all the way to the vocal sampled outro. Simple, yet great. It fades out gently.
Velvet Pants is next, with some vocal samples at the start which are rather random, before quickly going into a good groove based piece with piano in the background. Some vocal samples discussing Hippie based culture are here, and although this is a more subdued sort of piece, it still sounds excellent. A minimalistic EDM groovetastic piece, this is really amazing. In the middle of this track there is a strange mixture of vocal samples, melodies and scratching, with some eerie sounds in the background, before going into a suspenseful second half. A brilliant effort, and although very minimal, definitely worth your time to hear.
Better? is next, which is a two minute piece. It has some incredibly realistic drum beats and some awesome yet simple melodies to keep you interested. Yes, this is a minimalist EDM album, but very good to hear tracks like these. Some basic melodies, piano and those awesome drums kick this one along nicely. Nice little interlude here, great to hear.
Next is Oh Yeah! which begins with some random movement sounds, before some low key melodies enter and drums do, too. This is a more straightforward listen, with some real sounding bass guitar, almost real drumbeats and a keen sense of melody by the Propellerheads. It sounds very Led Zeppelin esque, oddly enough. Still, a nice listen at home or on a drive to work sort of scenario. This is excellent music, and is nicely crafted for those who like their Rock stuff as much as their EDM. Fresh and funky, these guys deliver. It is slow and gentle, but still, never dull. In the second half, it stops for a moment, before resuming. Clever and different, another great tune to hear.
Following is History Repeating – Knee Length Mix which has a really dark organ sound and some bongos sampled. Here is Shirley Bassey singing, who was famous for singing on a lot of the James Bond film theme songs. It is no coincidence that this is the case. It is a great piece, with some brassy Jazz horns and piano to go with it as well. This piece is a great mixture of these two great artists doing their thing best. The mixture of EDM sensibility from the Propellerheads and the soul singing from Shirley Bassey here are very good. Good listening, this is a warm welcome for this sort of thing.
Winning Style is next, which begins with some random vocal samples, before some realistic cut up drumbeats enter. There are some more basic melodies here, and some real bass guitar as well. The whole thing is awesome and sounds interesting. There are some groovy melodies throughout, which sound a bit like Deep Purple organ sort of sounds. The Propellerheads do have winning style here, it is easy to see why. The sounds here are so great that it does demand repeat listens, not bad for super minimalist music. In the second half, some extra melodies enter the track. This sounds somewhat like lounge Jazz music, and is incredible to hear. A great listen from start to finish, nicely crafted music here. It fades out on a panned melody here, good stuff.
Bang On! is next, with a weird intro of sampled speech, before launching into a really awesome and crazy sounding piece with an Acid melody in it. This is really exciting and incredible to hear, and is somewhat different from the previous tracks in the way that it sounds like more straightforward EDM here. Some crazy slide guitar sounding parts are here as well, and the multiple sections here are excellent. It goes into an awesome guitar sample that is really nice and catchy. This track is a full on assault, and sounds really amazing. Definitely a more upbeat piece on this album, this is excellent to hear. In the second half is some nice bass guitar and some killer electronic melodies, before it kicks into a frenzied finish. One of the better tracks from this album, it is really fantastic listening. Great tune.
Next is A Number Of Microphones which has some beatboxing and random samples. Less than a minute long, this is definitely different and a nice musical interlude on this album. Great to hear, and a good twist to this album.
Following is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which begins with some sampling of a James Bond soundtrack, before launching into an electronic interpretation of said Bond movie soundtrack. It is surprisingly well done here. Before long, some hi-hats enter, along with some funky guitar to make things different. Some more looped musical elements enter, and the drums kick in. A great piece of music this is, and is also a great reinterpretation of the music of the 007 franchise, arguably one of the greatest film series ever to exist. There are multiple breakdowns in this track, with many funky instrumentation and guitar loops here. This is better than you’d expect, a wonderful and fresh piece of music that looks to the past to liven up the future. In the midsection are some unusual movie string sections from the James Bond film, and we have a very captivating listen. Before long, it goes into a crazy EDM piece in the second half. A killer tune for fans of EDM, Rock and James Bond. The sample of the the theme song continues throughout, and we have a great listen. Top reinterpretation by the Propellerheads. Nice, very awesome to hear. The climax at the end is really awesome.
Bigger? is next, beginning with some sampled speech, before going into an awesome groove that sounds absolutely mindblowing. This is a shorter piece here by the Propellerheads, going only for two minutes long. Still, it is an amazing and fresh listen, and a nice little interlude before what comes next.
Comingtogetcha is next, which has a large amount of speech samples which is rather trippy, before going into a guitar riff that repeats, with some strange background noise. Before long, some awesome drum beats enter and we are underway here. This is another straightforward yet awesome sounding piece that is really nice to hear. Continuing much of the James Bond sort of theme here, this is wonderful listening. A vast and interesting musical journey this album is, and this track is no different. About midway through is an amazing nasty sounding Acid riff that is really quite good. This is an excellent tune on a very good album, and everything is wonderfully crafted here. An awesome and cool listen. Towards the end the percussion fades out, leaving the riff alone to play, before coming straight back at you. This continues for a little bit, before ending.
The best is for the last here with Spybreak! which was used extensively in the science fiction classic The Matrix. It begins with some cool beats and beatboxing, before the classic bass guitar riff enters and before long, beats get underway. This is totally cool, straight out of the James Bond book of awesome. It has a key change shortly into it, which makes it different, and alternates between the regular track and the key change. There are so many original sounds here that your mind will be truly blown away by this track. Definitely a historical piece of musical bliss, this is amazing. The sounds, structure and themes here are done perfectly. Cool to the nth degree, this is magical listening. A great piece of music, and very memorable. Towards the end, the beats and melodies will catch your attention for sure, and we end this album on a high note. A great listening experience, time to enter The Matrix after this track. It fades out wonderfully.
This is a fantastic album that directly combines elements of EDM, Rock, Electronica and spy themes. If that is your sort of thing, you will be right at home here. Even so, this album is so good that even casual listeners will be blown away. Too bad this is the only offering by the Propellerheads. Still, check out the 20th anniversary reissue with extra tracks if you like this album here.