From the swiss cheese minds of Emperor Steel and Lord Littlemore, psychedelia abound in this latest musical representation of an animated film epic. Or at least that’s how I see it. I have always been on the backfoot when trying to listen to an Empire of the Sun record and this sophomore release is no different. But there’s something very intoxicating listening to the smooth pop overtones on what is essentially a remake, albeit more consistent, than their debut release ‘Walking on the Sun’. Having been a somewhat fan of the first album, this has been a highly anticipated release from the industry darlings. There are few people in the world right now who can command shout outs from people such as Kanye West and Jay Z as well as have knobs of such esteem as David “I have Funky Hair” Guetta clamouring to remix their every single.
Probably the most standout tracks on the album are those ones which exude the quintessential sounds associated with Empire – The pumping house beats thanks to the Pnau heritage, choral children deftly placed in the malaise and Luke Steele’s iconic and sometimes jarring vocals piercing each and every song perfectly like those toothpicks through bacon wrapped little boy frankfurts. Mmm…Bacon. The first track to hit you with that sound is ‘Alive’, the first release track, and every bit the best delivery from the stork Steele and Littlemore could produce. The next standout track is the title track ‘Ice on the Dune’, with its sweet imagery and placid dream-like synths, but again follows through with that driving house style kick. Again, this sound is so easily placed through the album all the way through tracks such as ‘Disarm’. But splattered through the entirety are other little studio gems such as ‘Surround Sound’ and ‘Old Flavours’ which are an altogether different and on some planes; darker and more foreboding sound. We even get a Bowie-esque end to the album which some will find abhorrent, but I thought was a nice touch and a homage to Bowie’s more dreamy tracks of the psychedelic era of the seventies.
Its very difficult to not use the nonce-like descriptions and flowery verbosity of the tracks that Steele and Littlemore use. It does evoke a purity and child-like atmosphere at the same time as allowing adults to return from whence they came, if only for the length of the album.
I don’t think its possible to do a review of this album without posting some of the insanity that is Emperor Luke Steele describing the album production and the tracks themselves. Track 1 – Lux – is describes as “about how the Emperor’s head-dress is stolen by The King Of Shadows, bringing chaos to the world”. Track 2 – DNA – Steele describes the song as “like lying in front of a log fire with a labrador as a pillow”. Acid, anyone? Fuck, lots of acid, anyone? No? Means more for Emperor Steele and Lord Littlemore-than-backfiller to eat…
In a recent interview about the recording of the album Steele describe the experience of recording in NYC as scary, strangely describing it as “Just like…this giant bulldog sitting over the city and growling” and “it’s this really heavy place. I feel like everyone has their portal to God, you know, their spiritual connection but, in New York, it feels like there is no room for your portal, so everyone’s wires are crossed. It’s weird.” Cute. Fucken weird as hell, but probably true and oh-so-innocent and saccharine-cute. The dude even has admitted to regularly dreaming of mammoths – a slightly *less* acid induced theme for the record (for the record).
This is a duo apparently, but you get the impression that Littlemore just defers to Steele for every comment, quite conscious he is incapable of describing the songs with as much crystalline stupidity coupled with a complete sense of self-righteousness that Steele can – and so effortlessly as well.
There’s a lot of musical shit going on in the Steele family, with Emperor Luke’s sister Katy heading equally sublime and somewhat more coherent group Little Birdy and father Rick being a blues songman in his own right. Many of Steele’s family members have been in and out of Sleepy Jackson with Emperor Luke and worked collaboratively with Steele across projects. Nick Littlemore seems to be the only one who has stuck around with the bullshit for long enough to make a duo, but something tells me the honeymoon is almost over. Although news had hit, they are working on the third album already, after only just completing this one. Takes it either of two ways – Either Littlemore is so enamoured and desperate to make a third with such a genius, or Littlemore is desperate to complete the trilogy that is Empire of the Sun and get the hell away from the crazy acid-muching Emperor.
8.5/10 Acid Munching Mammoths
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