Its been an exhausting year to date for Rob Bradley and Mark Bebb who make up Welsh EDM duo Shelter, first with their highly infectious collaboration iPop with Pop legend Andy Bell to further musical alliances with Alignment North, and featuring on their new long player Vincent Frank Aka Frankmusik, to going on tour this month throughout England, Germany and Denmark supporting Synth legends Erasure.
Emerge is the debut studio album from Shelter comprising a whopping great 17 tracks of electronic finery that travel through an electronic time period ranging from the early 80s, featuring styled synth hooks and Kraftwerk vocoded lyrics, through Euro-Disco bass lines culminating in a modern day polish that brings the intertwining musical styles up to date and marries them seamlessly.
The album kicks off with Fierce, a vibrant throwback to new futurism with its tongue n cheek references to today’s fashion Paragons and 80s sounding electronics, then moves swiftly to the Blue Monday bass and Snare roll styled Blur the Lines. Another energetic track with a twist in the chorus that reshapes the song from serious to buoyant in a slightly awkward manner. Diablo is next up with its heavily vocoded lyrics and mid tempo 90s Scandinavian Euro pop sound and then one of the albums finest moments Broken descends upon us. The anthemic opening riff gives an air of seriousness to this song and the accompanying analogue sounding synth that backs Bebbs heartfelt Broken, fractured chorus is sublime. This is not a busy track at all and has been balanced beautifully between “too electro” and “too human” and it works spectacularly.
Why is quite similar in the same respect as it bares a heavy emphasis on emotional writing than on “what’s current” production. Not that it isn’t a current sounding track but the boys don’t sound like they are trying to fit in here with “what the song should be” for today’s radio play. Another mid tempo track follows in Something and it is becoming increasingly evident that this duo can really pen a quality track indeed, incorporating subtle electronic sounds that don’t overbear the tracks and give them an emotive quality befitting of established artists that have been churning out music for decades.
New Romanticism in the ensuing Make Me is then up next with the only thing missing is Mr Numan himself singing on this track, although Bebb makes a decent attempt at an impersonation. SMS is one of those album tracks that usually some would class as filler and on first listen I would have pigeon holed it in this category but it keeps tapping at the ears telling the listener to “check out this and check out that sound” and is pretty damn infectious if truth be told. It also contains a quite ingenious decaying bass line sound that accompanies an extremely sunny analogue bleeped riff that definitely keeps it a bit more interesting than “filler”. Twinkling keys introduce the albums first down tempo track “Hidden”, merging with further smooth synthetics and falsetto vocals this makes for a delicately crafted song presenting a level of adept maturity in the writing and is devoid of the busyness that some electronic artists feel they need to cram into their music these days.
The second half of the album starts with Neva Luv U More a playful little pop track and then proceeds into Invincible which elegantly flows over a break beat which gives the track a very current sound not unlike something heard from the Geordie Shore soundtracks. Another up tempo dance anthem follows in the guise of Stardust featuring Alex Reid on vocals. The well crafted and again up to date sounding Stardust leads perfectly to the brilliant With You that entertains vocals from Frankmusik and no doubt if pencilled in on the release schedule should gain a lot of plaudits as it carries all the hallmarks of a great Pop song, from the smooth vocals to the escalating soundscapes enhanced with the high energy production. Andy Bell features next on the first of three tracks incorporating his vocal elegance with a song first released on the iPop album Stars. This has been re jigged for Emerge to carry a more chart friendly sound which is somewhat disappointing as it has an obvious remix feel about it compared to the fantastically subtle iPop version.
The next song featuring Andy Bell, is the stunning Beautiful is again a different version featured on this album, from the alluring iPop album version or in fact the powerhouse that was the single mix but Shelter have given it an anthemic style befitting of any current radio playlist. Lift Me Up completes the trilogy of Andy Bell contribution to Emerge but includes input this time from his Tekky sidekick, the incredible genius that is Vince Clarke of Depeche,Yazoo and of course Erasure fame. Clear Crisp production, matched with a signature Vince Clarke infectious riff puts this up there as an instant favourite and if there is one compliment that could be given to our Welsh boys is that this track could have easily walked onto any Erasure albums over the past two decades and never looked out of place. Finally the album closes with Trouble With U a track featuring Berlin’s Bjorn Schulze AKA Alignment North. Heavily zipping synth chords overtake the earie starting keys and the track propels itself into a frenetic mass of Euro Dance which sees Emerge finish with a bang and a loud one at that.
In today’s ever evolving EDM scene there appears to be a notion that all things electronic and dance should always move forward and align with the technology that supersedes it, but Shelter have proved with Emerge that with careful consideration to the sounds and atmospheres that started the New wave 80s electro movement, some thoughtful song writing and the pristine sounding technology of today’s production techniques a union can be made between the three to create something current and fresh such as this body of work displays and I would encourage any EDM fan to witness the surfacing of Shelter and Emerge.