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Spirit in the System
The Qemists Spirit in the System
Released 13 August 2010
Producer The Qemists
Label Ninja Tune
Length 43:56
Genre Rock, drum and bass
Website www.theqemists.com

The Qemists release their sophomore effort, Spirit in the System, on Friday the 13th in Ireland and comes just a year after their debut release Join the Q. This album was a blistering introduction to the groups fusion of drum and bass and heavy rock, and their second album is a repeat of the boisterous and frenetic style that's winning over fans worldwide, and introducing many to a musical style which they may not have considered before. The Brighton based trio, consisting of Dan Arnold on bass, Leon Harris on drums and Liam Black playing guitar, originated as a rock outfit which they worked tirelessly at by day, and at night experimented with remixes and playing live DJ sets. They were attracted to the aggressive, chaotic sound of drum and bass, and this naturally led them to an amalgamation of the their two loves, rock, and DnB.

Their first real impact on the world of music was a remix of Coldcut’s 'Everything Is Under Control'. This remix is a good example of what these guys could achieve, if they had better song writing ability themselves, and weren't slaves to the idea that a track needs pop vocals. It has deep, gut-pounding bass-lines and mile a minute drum beats, and explains why Matt Black of Coldcut was so eager to sign them to the very reputable Ninja Tunes label. This label has such noteworthy artists on its books as Mr. Scruff, Cinematic Orchestra, Bonobo and of course Coldcut, who originally formed the Ninja Tunes label back in 1990.

Their own style, exemplified throughout this album, has more of a strongly pop-accessible feel, with euphoric dance-style vocals (such as on tracks 'Fading Halo' and 'Hurt Less') and less complicated drum beats, or at least less interesting drum beats. The breakbeats, deep bass sounds and heavy guitar riffs are there, but to my mind the blending of the rock and dnb styles dilutes both sounds somewhat. And just like Pendulum, who are the originators of this blending of styles, the end result, while certainly pounding and ear-splitting, will leave aficionados of each genre feeling cheated. It's rock without the bitchin' guitar solos, and drum n' bass without the filth.

There are elements on some tracks which I can applaud, such as on 'Life's Too Short'; where the bass line is pumping, almost at that level of grime and sweat that true dnb fans yearn for, and is coupled nicely with a good steady intro of muscular guitar riffs. However this, like all the other tracks on the album, is ruined by the addition of boyband-esque/emo vocals. 'Renegade' features a pleasant bouncy rap from grime rapper Maxsta; yet it just doesn't compare to guest raps on say, Gorillaz' Plastic Beach who have such lyrical masters as Mos Def helping out.

This album will probably be quite popular with people who like brainless, loud, fast-paced tunes. But if you're finding yourself interested in some of the styles on display here, do yourself a favour and find the artists that do it properly. Goldie's track 'Temper Temper' is similar in its inception, but has that eerie, down and dirty feel that's so lacking here. Or check out Grooverider, Shy FX, DJ Hype or Noisia for some proper duurty bass...

- Eadaoin Browne