Simian Mobile Disco have prefaced this latest LP with a claim that it’s “aimed squarely at the dancefloor”. That’s presumably supposed to signpost a move away from approach of their last record, ‘Whorl’. That album was a complex, layered affair, full of hazy analog compositions and forays into the most experimental territory of their career. You get the impression that ‘Welcome to Sideways’ is intended as another left turn. Although in reality, it ends up more of a reversion than a reaction.
For a start, given that the record’s meant to be a club-oriented affair, it’s surprisingly subdued. It’s not strictly lacking in tempo, more that cuts like the minimalist ‘Bubble Has No Answers’ lack the sort of vigour you’d come to expect from James Ford and Jas Shaw when they resolve to make out-and-out dance music. This applies to ‘Flying or Falling’, all dreamy synth loops that jar against clattering percussion, and meandering closer ‘Drone Follows Me Everywhere’.
It isn’t that ‘Welcome to Sideways’ lacks nice ideas - more that they feel a muted next to the sprawling scope of ‘Whorl’. The big floor-filling moments are in there, particularly on the gripping one-two of ‘Staring at All This Handle’ and ‘Face to Face with Spoon’, but they feel incongruous in the thick of what is otherwise a woozy comedown of an album that fails to cover a great deal of new ground. They still do this particular brand of techno very well - the record’s standout track, ‘Remember in Reverse’, stands as testament to that - but they made their name as innovators in the genre a decade ago and hearing them opt for such a straightforward approach this time around feels like a step backwards.