Admit it - if you were born before 1990 there's a good chance you've lost it at some point to a Chicane track, be it at the work's Christmas do or some dodgy nightclub you were too drunk to make an excuse not to go to. In real life, a solus project of Nick Bracegirdle (you can see why the pseudonym works better) its remarkable longevity as a thing is probably due in part to having appeal for both the Asda mums and estuary tweens, the two nowadays being able to dance together around their handbags to early singles such as 'Offshore' and 'Sunstroke'.
'...The Sum of Its Parts' is Bracegirdle's sixth album, but the first made since the EDM movement - which he could rightly claim to be a granddaddy of - finally sunk its teeth into American teenagers. To be fair to him, whilst it might have been a fairly obvious career move to ape Porter Ricks or Deadmau5, there's no discernible move to accommodate a market which you assume would lap some of this stuff up here: we're still strictly Ibiza-lite.
Opening with the semi-operatic chimes of 'Eglise', it would seem equally fair to believe that the Chicane sound might've been uncoupled from its simplistic moorings. This mistaken preconception lasts until its successor '38 Weeks' kicks in, which despite having former Dead Can Dance singer Lisa Gerrard giving the whole thing some much needed dignity soon degenerates into highly formulaic (and familiar) territory. In her 4AD days renowned for being something of a diva, the Australian also makes an appearance later on 'Orleans', a distinctly more satisfying glide into flotation tank ambience.
Here and there lie flashes of what made trance such a huge commodity in late nineties Britain, especially on 'Still With Me', Bo Bruce's fissured vocals far back in the mix and big, arpeggiated swirls making the case for the feeling of escapism that was its defining quality. The problem, though, is that '...The Sum Of Its Parts' feels like the whole thing is one big mixtape, the tracks giving way to each other almost like featureless ripples across a pond. It's, of course, well tooled, effortlessly produced and made principally for a club audience (just not a very hip one) but equally the lack of any real emotion makes for something as anodyne as any you'll hear in the next 12 months. It seems harsh to kick a person/record even further when they're/it's down, but again where there are lyrics - such as on '1,000 Suns' - they make Meghan Trainor sound like the Dalai Lama, for example: "The silence/it's getting louder/The lights above will shine to bring you home". Quite.
It would be foolish to assume that Bracegirdle hasn't heard all these criticisms before and isn't prepared for them again. He'll almost certainly smile wanly as '...The Sum of Its Parts' gets critically tanked before pointing to his collection of gold discs, mirror shades and the rumours he's one of the few men to turn down working with both Kylie and Dannii Minogue. He's probably right to be relaxed and neither does making this kind of music constitute any sort of crime, regardless of how jaw-droppingly formulaic it is. Operating in a genre that's about suspension of belief as much as anything else, Bracegirdle is guilty of nothing more than being lazy, as in 2015 something so featureless and which asks so few questions confines itself to the realm of boy bands and novelty acts. Perhaps it simply needs to be extra worse to act as some kind of perverse talking point, but more likely outside of the long converted, '..Sum Of Its Parts' will just be completely ignored.
Official Site - http://chicanemusic.co.uk