Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar have nurtured something completely distinct in House as Bicep. They deal in a raw, unadulterated sound of House, feigning dogmatic approaches and forging ahead of trends. Theirs is an instantly recognisable sound as big, jacking beats take centre stage in minimalist machine productions expertly crafted for the purpose of physical movement. Their percussive-focussed productions squash everything in its wake and stand on their own in any DJ mix. In the 7 years they’ve been around, they’ve released music on labels like AUS, KMS and of course their own Feel my Bicep imprint, with many dance floor killers attributed to them over the course of their career. Their music is perfectly suited for the 12″ format – utilitarian with just a hint of idiosyncrasy – and its definitely not difficult to see why they’ve feigned from the album format until now.
Curiosity draws you to Bicep’s self-titled debut album. As an act that’s made no bones about the corporeal intentions in their music, you wonder how they might approach something outside of the nightclub and away from the floor. On their “Just” EP we might have gotten little hint of what Bicep would sound like if not all their efforts were focussed on the floor, but with that EP we also lost something of the Bicep charm as they experimented in a different realm. For Bicep to work in the album format they would need to retain that crucial identity in their music, but at the same time channel it into something that could be accessed in a less than purposed setting. It would be an incredible feat, but on their debut they’ve certainly achieved that.
Bicep’s sound still takes centre stage, but their arrangements forego their usual DJ-purposed forms, for fully realised songs, utilising bridges rather than build-ups and applying more melodic- and harmonic weight to their threadbare productions. Bicep is still fairly stripped back, but there’s a lot more focus on melodic engagement and they’ve subverted ubiquitous four on the floor arrangement for rhythms that swing from break-beat to two step and back to 4/4 at a much more reserved pace than their previous EPs. This album is like Martyn’s The Air Between two worlds or Four Tet’s Pink, re-contextualising the dance floor a something more abstract, something that could extend a night out to before and after the event, where you can either carry on the momentum with a track like “kites”, or slip into something more tranquil like “drift”.