Album Review: Hot Chip – ‘A Bath Full of Ecstacy’

Hot Chip remain one of the most beloved electronic outfits rising out of the noughties. Owed to their knack of progressively offering new dimensions their sound, whilst simultaneously settling into their own skin with each release.

The latest, A Bath Full of Ecstasy is the first time that the band have opened up their process and collaborated with other producers including Cassius’s Philippe Zdar who produced Pheonix’s legendary album ‘Wolfgang Amadeus’ and Rodaidh McDonald who has worked with the likes of The XX and David Bryne.

The result of this new collaboration brings us a nine-track album that is warm, charming and full of melodic life. Hot Chip have always worn their quirks on their sleeves leading to an array of vastly different aesthetics from track to track and that is again true of the group’s new release but there is a much greater sense of coherence that ties A Bath Full of Ecstasy together.

At it’s least intriguing A Bath Full of Ecstasy can at times come off as somewhat predictable and overly poppy; relying on some overused tropes. This is especially prevalent on the title track where chopped pitched vocals and rather mundane instrumentation distract from the originality that defines the band. Similarly, ‘Melody of Love’ leaves something to be desired. The track feels like what you would get if Springsteen came to collaborate with the band but is, unfortunately, missing some of the power and intensity that you’d expect from that combination, especially after hearing the bands rendition of ‘Dancing In The Dark’.

Luckily the rest of the album has plenty to feed a Hot Chip fans appetite. ‘Spell’, ‘Positive’ and ‘Hungry Child’ are all bursting with kinetic energy that will most definitely be their strongest live tracks. Each one incorporates powerful four-four rhythms interwoven with moments of suspended reverb and colourful synthesizers creating a nice balance of great pop song writing with dance music sensibilities. ‘Positive’ being particularly strong with lyrics that outline the struggles of loneliness placed a hopeful musical setting. The song feels like a representation to the uplifting nature music can have over people in darker times. ‘Echo’ is another solid moment, encompassing the true nature of the band’s ability to subvert expectations by tying jittery and broken synth rhythms with fluid, evolving beats. There is a lot more intimacy here due to the lack of bigger reverbs that add space on the other tracks using pauses to incorporate breathing room instead.

A personal highlight on the album is the song ‘Clear Blue Skies’ which takes listeners on an ambient detour as the album winds down. It’s a slow-burning song with a lullaby quality due to the soft hush lyrics and lush harmonies. It’s the perfect example of how simplistic song structures can be engaging with small changes in instrumentation.

Overall A Bath Full of Ecstasy is Hot Chips most coherent record to date, the quality of production leads to a consistent aesthetic that binds the various musical influences together neatly. Whilst none of the tracks might ever exceed the heights of their hits on previous efforts it has given light to Hot Chips ability to craft an album which is undoubtedly one of the most difficult tasks to achieve as a band.