While Belfast-born, London-located Bicep (a.k.a Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar) has earned itself with a rapidly expanding fan base with its hedonistically catchy early-'90s house sounds, its output has also garnered a few detractors. The pair's Feel My Bicep blog discusses Panorama Bar DJs reacting with "utter disbelief" in response to Bicep playing Byron Stingily's feelgood, late-'90s classic "Get Up (Everybody)," and Discogs is peppered with gripes that the duo has profited from the old-school house revival that's currently in fashion. But a recent Beats in Space session, one brimming with four years of unnamed original productions, has quickly helped quiet some of the assertions that Bicep was merely rehashing the rave zone of yesteryear. Although the outfit's predilection for inescapably catchy piano lines was still present, there was also some ominously weighty techno and an edit of "I'm a Slave 4 U" that actually made Britney Spears seem a little sinister. On the new Stash EP, Bicep forages into similarly darker territory.
Bicep's most startling departure in style is "The Game," which hammers home its title through sampling the famous gangster eulogy delivered by The Wire's Omar Little. The track is brimming with the melancholy sentimentality of the television series, the music fraught with mellow piano chords flickering in the void as a shuffling drum machine takes the organic elements down a notch with precise and mechanical blank-faced apathy. The antithesis of uplifting, it's still self-assured enough to command the dancefloor. "Courtside Drama" begins from an equally murky and cheerless vantage point. While trace elements displaying Bicep's love of classic New Jersey garage are still firmly in place, the song takes a dip into more somber territory as a reverberating woodblock carves out a place amongst some fluttering synth lines
"Rise" ups the ante with some immersive Mood II Swing-influenced percussive patterns and a slowly building ascent into a fireworks display of smoldering synth acrobatics. Ceaselessly rising during its eight-minute span as a murmured growl unintelligibly whispers throughout, it's equally possible that "Rise" could be a Gospel reference or an allusion to some Cthulhu-esque harbinger of terror. Title track "Stash" provides the sweatiest and smoothest offering of the bunch, sporting a slightly bruised and gnarled bassline that tears a page from Omar-S & Ob Ignitt's playbook circa "Wayne Hills County Cops Pt. 2," its smooth, glistening synths pouring out with the vigor and unpredictability of a late-night Detroit techno jam session.
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