Apr 222010

Hybrid-Disappear Here (Distinctive Records Disk192 2010)

I don’t know about you but it is getting harder to find knowledgeable music enthusiasts to talk to, in what passes these days for a record shop. Once upon a time before music became a commodity, it was possible, even in major record shop chains to find experts to chat with but sadly Virgin, Our Price, MVC and many others have vanished in recent years leaving desserts of mediocrity and leaving very few experts left working in music retailing. The shelves are stacked high with DVDs, games and precious little music, so why would you need music experts ?

In recent months HMV have reduced their floor space for Cds and the small displays of vinyl they used to have in some stores have all but vanished, so very little music is now on sale.

It is into this depressing wilderness that I still try to find the gems of new music that I know are still out there but now it is so much harder to find these, with no one to point them out to you.

Now I am not saying that every branch of HMV is devoid of guys and gals who have a passion and evangelical fervour for preaching new music to their patrons but in these days of stacking the shelves high with bought in sales goods (sale items are not the shops over stocks or failed to sell items any more but bought in stock from specialist clearance warehouses. That box set you want but can’t afford rarely ever goes to sale now but vanishes into the night. Sales used to be great places to find new music but not any more the stock is the same all over; how sad), shrinking back catalogue displays and specialist music sections, it is rare to find staff who know anything about the stock other than where it is, never mind suggest new music to you.

Traditionally the small independent shops had knowledge a plenty but they too have vanished, swept away by a wave of cheap supermarket top 40 release (the bread and butter of most small shops) vending, illegal downloads, internet buying and the sheer lack of interest in music among many in the general populace and particularly the youth of today, who appear to prefer shoot-em-up computer games to quality music. The high streets of your town or city are now increasingly devoid of any type of record shop, never mind good ones…sad but true.

You may ask what the preceding moan about the state of music retailing has to do with anything. Well faced with this lack of guidance I myself have taken to buying albums based on the cover art or just a feel that I might like the music. A dangerous thing to do and I would have to agree, though somehow to date, bar a few mishaps, I have got away with it. This takes us to the subject of this review the Swansea (Wales) based electronic/dance group Hybrid who were one of these risky purchases.

I came across Hybrid’s 2003 release Morning Sci-Fi by being attracted to it via the cover art and title. Once I had heard it I fell in love with the swirling majesty of this album. Tracks like This is what it means,True to form and Blackout (vocals by Kirsty Hawkshaw) made this a very special album for me. To be honest there are no weak tracks on this album and it is in my opinion as close to perfect as you can get. From an audiophile point of view it is open, dynamic and nicely recorded not suffering from compression much but it can sound a wee bit relentless on systems that are forward and bright.

Influenced by that purchase I bought Wider Angle, which I like but if I am honest I wanted another Morning Sci-Fi and Wider angle was not such an album. I had hoped I would have got it in the 2006 album I Choose Noise but alas again I didn’t and based on that album, which I don’t like much I had all but given up on Hybrid; that is until now…….

Hybrid who are Chris Healings and Mike Truman are back with a new album Disappear Here and a new member Charlotte James, who sings plays guitar, piano and cello. Also back is the pomp, majesty and swirling epics of previous album Morning Sci-Fi. Hybrid’s music is now back to the light and shade of their pre I Choose Noise sound and thus can at a moments notice jump from delicate and beautiful to a swirling maelstrom of energy….as Bill and Ted would say “Excellent”.

Hybrid are well known for being fans of analogue recording equipment, instruments and also of using real instruments as much as possible. They are also one of the few dance/electronic acts that play live, using a real band to do so. This approach is easily evident in the albums they have recorded so far and in this their new album Disappear Here.

This new album has in places, the pomp and Arabic majesty of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, the rhythm and textures of New Order, the punk dance sensibilities of The Prodigy and even the quirkyness of say a singer song writer like Tori Amos but manages to mix it all up to be a unique Hybrid.

For me this album is a return to what I first liked in Morning Sci-Fi. That albums brooding, swirling soundscapes which at times are cinematic in their scope and feel is used here as a basis but the addition Charlotte James  now means that Disappear Here has the feel and reality of being about real songs and less about dance beats with vocals on top.

Taken from Maxumi Magazine and speaking about the additional band member, Chris Healings comments that; “This album offers a lot more than anything we’ve managed to write in the past. Charlotte comes from that singer/songwriter/performer world and she really inspired us to write something much more song based. Working so much with her we feel like there’s a feeling of going somewhere else or doing something that will last longer in a live capacity. The music definitely reflects our desire to be a band but firmly rooted in dance music.” Link http://www.maxumi.co.uk/2010/02/15/hybrid-disappear-here/

Opening track Empire sets the scene for the rest of the album and in feel it has many elements of the sound found on Morning Sci-Fi. A brooding drum beat similar to something Propaganda might have used on their first album begins immediately after someone gasps for air. The track then builds as new elements of sound are added to the mix, including various items of percussion, swirling keyboards and the strings of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Empire then takes a delicate dip before the aural assault begins again. As the track progresses little hints of the Chemical Brothers sound floats in and out of the mix. This is a wonderful opening track and very much a statement of the trios intent for the rest of the album.

Can you Here Me.

Begins with a mash up which come across like Led Zeppelin meets Goldfrapp. A swirling dark brooding  soundscape carries Charlotte vocals along before Tim Hutton voice joins her and then takes over, adding a distinct aggresive edge to proceedings. As the track flows along its agrressive edge is tempered with a more gentle vibe as delicate keyboards and strings join the mix, before Tim once again adds a punk sensibility to things. All the time this is going on a very Morning Sci-Fi sound feild is bubbling along under the main music….. powerful epic stuff.

Green Shell Suit.

This track is truly epic as its sound rises and falls and not only could it be from a movie soundtrack but it could also be a track not included on Morning Sci-Fi.

Disappear Here.

Has both power and majesty but also beautifully haunting moments as Charlotte James vocals guide the path this track takes.

Every Word.

Has a warm natural feel that also has a very strong nod to the Morning Sci-Fi sound. The dense sound scape has floated on top of it acoustic and slide guitar parts. It ebbs and flows in away that on this album could almost pass for a pop song.

Formula of Fear.

This for me is a stand out track but words fail me in trying to do it justice. All I will/can say, is it’s fantastic.

City Siren (reprise)

This is a pure pomp intro and leads into Salt, which has a strong Arabic feel to it. Think Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song meets Kashmir, meets early Sarah Mclachlin (Touch album), Kosheen and Madonna’s Frozen. A heady mix indeed that works fantastically well. Off particular note here is the amazing drum playing which underpins this track.

Original Sin

This track is pure Morning Sci-Fi and could have come of that album.

Take A Fall

This track opens with swirling synths, piano and Tim Hutton’s vocals which are slightly more melodic and playful than normal, though still maintaining his trademark edge.  This track has a more drum and bass vibe to it than other songs on the album, bar Break My Soul.

Break My Soul

The first official single release from this album Break My Soul is a haunting piece with a majestic string section adding sweeping grandure to the track. Along with the orchestra and a Drum and Bass rhythm section, this track again nods strongly to the Arabic feel of Led Zepplin’s Kashmere.


This is very much this albums epic track at over 6 minutes long. It begins gently and with great delicacy and has a similar feel to Goldfrapp circa Seventh Tree. However as Charlotte James sings the song begins to move away from the Goldfrapp vibe and into a new more singer songwriter style for electronic/dance group. This is very beautiful song and in my opinion the albums best track.

This album is a very welcome return to form (by that I mean the sound and feel of Morning Sci-Fi) and the presence of Charlotte James adds a depth and warmth that was I feel lacking a bit on their other albums. I for one welcome her presence and look forward to the upcoming live dates this summer and a future album, with her hopefully still involved.


Musicians on this recording…..

Michael Truman- Bass, production and sounds.

Chris Healings-Sound designs.

Charlotte James- Guitar,keyboards, cello, Piano, vocals.

Tim Hutton-Vocals, Bass.

Alex Madge-Drums

Sound Quality 7 out of 10

Music 8 out 0f 10

Source of Music Reviewed….. Reviewer owned item

System used….

Reimyo CDT-777 and DAP-999ex Cd player, Meridian G02 Balanced Pre-Amplifier, Music Reference RM200 Amplifier, Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1 Speakers. Signal Cabling Atlas Marvos xlr to xlr, and Atlas Marvos Speaker cable. Mains leads Audience AU24 and Analysis Plus Power Oval 2. Equipment Tables used Clearlight Audio Aspekt Rack and Mana Floor Amplifier platform.

NB. The copyright of the images in this review belong with the original publishers.

© Text Copyright 2010 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio.

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