Now That’s What They Call Dance Music!
An appropriately named band at a most inopportune time, the Presets are jacks-of-all-beats and masters of none. With the apparent push of a button, their first LP Beams seems to represent all that is good in electronica. That sadly serves as a backhanded compliment to the form, one that would have harsher critics writing obituaries for it.The problem isn’t really with the music made by Australians Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes. “Are You the One?” and “Kitty in the Middle” skillfully undermine relationship caterwauls with disco trappings like handclaps and double entendre. “Girl (You Chew My Mind Up)” sneaks glitch into straightforward dance-rock, while the title track uses synthesized banjo to introduce orchestral pop. Indeed, the only visited genre that doesn’t get a fair shake is ambient dub, as “Hill Stuck” deserves more than two minutes to have its dark places explored.
One would hope the Presets wanted to craft a primer on what’s what in neo-dance. The fact (and big issue) is that Beams somehow ends up feeling more like a who’s who. Every single note on this album echoes more established acts from early Cure to recent turntablists.
“Steamworks” appropriates Daft Punk’s 4/4 stomp, for example, while “Girl and the Sea” embraces Underworld’s minimalist side. The disaffected drawl of “Bad Up Your Betterness” is straight outta Gorillaz. “Hill Stuck”? That’s Sly & Robbie, or maybe Mad Professor. That title track? Air, like whoa. Overall, this casts the Presets as little more than skilled parrots who otherwise bring nothing new to the table.
Sure, Beams is still entertaining; you could even stretch and call it good. Yet even with the best execution, someone already mimicking She Wants Revenge (mere mimics themselves, talented though they might be) calls into question what’s left for popular electronic music to say.