One of the most appealing things about Noisia is their ability to operate completely in their own lane. If EDM and its all-star cast are a bustling metropolis, Noisia are off in the hills somewhere, doing their own thing. Or in the case of their new album, Outer Edges, they’ve left Earth to begin exploring other galaxies.
Our first taste of the album was a 20-second teaser video showing the trio in monochromatic astronaut gear that looks like it was referenced from a Ridley Scott film. The teaser’s glowing helmets, liquid black matter, and glossy studio gear seemed to hint that their new album would share a similarly stark and eerie sci-fi tone as movies like Prometheus and Under the Skin.
The following week they dropped the album’s first single, “Anomaly”, which paired cover art featuring a planet’s silhouette with the sonic equivalent of sitting in a spaceship’s cockpit, slamming the hyperdrive button, and watching the surrounding stars slip into light speed.
Every detail, from the use of NASA-style fonts and intricate space suits to the 3D rendered visuals for each live track and their retro-future stage architecture, seemed meticulously planned as part of their immersive album and tour rollout.
Unfortunately, a few minutes before they stepped on stage for the debut of their Outer Edges show, they were told the album leaked. “It’s quite a setback,” the trio shared from a heart-string-tugging Facebook post, “All the plans we’ve made have to be scrapped and replaced by something less ideal.” They opted to make the album available everywhere at that point; and although its unveiling was cut short, Outer Edges remained an impactful beast of a full-length.
The album’s intro, “The Approach”, leads like a massive cargo door slowly revealing the vastness of space while metallic synths bob and warp like floating material around a rising string section. Tensions continue through “Anomaly” until we’re thrown into a blinding rush of Noisia’s signature percussive glory. Each of the following tracks on the album sounds like they could be the backdrop to the first encounter of a new planet.
“Collider” feels like landing on the shores of an extraterrestrial D-Day. “Vigilantes” is what an assassin listens to as they jump off walls and take aim in slow motion; and “Tentacles” is the fight happening in the bar next door. As the album unfolds, we see Noisia pushing further into unexplored territory by dipping into the current stream of dance music and fusing it with over a decade worth of their own production expertise.
“Voodoo” and “Exavolt” swing with a bit of Mr. Carmack’s unhinged trash can bass. “Straight Hook” is jump-up drum & bass turned upside down. “Surfaceless” and “15 Miniatures” sound like they’re being broadcasted from Soulection radio in the year 2088; and “Motion Blur” has them checking “liquid” off their growing list of sounds they can nail down with apparent ease.
Some of the best takeaways from the album, however, appear toward the end. “Into Dust” gives us a two-and-a-half-minute climb of vocal-cutting adrenaline before igniting classic Noisia destruction reminiscent of previous anthems like “Dustup” and “Dead Limit”. “Sinkhole” is an IMAX-sized demonstration of their unparalleled sound design. “Get Deaded” fires off gritty tempo shifting maximalism, and “The Approach (Reprise)” is a straight up jazz drum solo performed in zero gravity.
In the Outer Edges press release, Noisia mention, “There are no real concessions – we haven’t been super DJ-friendly or radio-friendly at all. We’ve done no collaborations and hardly any vocals on the album.” And although the idea of an artist finally making “the album they wanted to make” is a bit of a tired concept at this point, Noisia in particular seem to have embodied that DIY approach their entire career.
They’ve become the masters of their field — the Kubricks and Spielbergs of insanely technical bass music. They’re not just making drum & bass at this point, they’re making Noisia music; and their ability to operate and thrive completely in their own lane is inspiring.
Outer Edges may not be a perfect album — I think consolidating some of its more redundant or wandering mid section could’ve helped make the overall piece a bit more digestible — but its consistency in futuristic concepts, its ability to transport you to different worlds, and its bar-raising production and execution make it one of the best releases of the year so far.
Noisia’s Outer Edges album is available now on iTunes, Beatport, and their Vision Recordings shop (I suggest grabbing it here in WAV).
Words: FAN FICTION