“So you think electronic music is boring? You think…it’s stupid? You think it’s repetitive?”. So goes the playful intro to Clean Bandit’s first release ‘Mozart’s House’ – an addictive fusion of dance beats and Mozart’s String Quartet No.21 that cemented the band’s ‘electroquartet’ sound in 2013 and has since gone on to take the music world by storm. With acts such as Disclosure, Rudimental and Duke Dumont now dominating the charts, the Cambridge educated four-piece make a welcome but unique contribution to the recent UK dance music renaissance, challenging traditional stereotypes through their classical influences and quirky music videos to both commercial and critical acclaim. And if singles like ‘Rather Be’ and ‘Extraordinary’ are anything to go by, their upcoming album ‘New Eyes’ will certainly be a major soundtrack to summer 2014.
Currently signed to Atlantic records, Clean Bandit is made up of brothers Jack and Luke Patterson on decks and drums, Grace Chatto on cello and Neil Amin-Smith on violin. The band formed back in 2008 when three of the members were studying for respective degrees in Russian and Italian, architecture and history at Cambridge University. Apparently, one day, Jack started to experiment with a recording of girlfriend Grace’s string quartet in King College’s Chapel, looping and layering the strings with modern beats and synths, and voilà, a new electro-classical sound was born. Since uploading ‘Mozart’s House’ online in 2010, the band have had a somewhat enviable rise to fame. The video (shot in Russia, where Jack was then studying film) soon caught the attention of burgeoning record label Black Butter and before long, the twenty somethings were supporting the likes of alt-j, Disclosure and Rudimental on tour. Their biggest success to date, though, came this year with their exuberant hit single ‘Rather Be’. Featuring Jess Glynne’s soulful vocals, infectious house beats and fast finger work by violinist Neil, ‘Rather Be’ managed to stay at Number 1 for four weeks – even beating Pharell to the top spot with its uplifting chorus.
As if record breaking singles weren’t enough, Clean Bandit also aim for perfection in the visual element of their music. With one of the band members having studied at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow, the band write, direct and produce all of their music videos – an impressive feat which they hope to continue with every song on their album (à la Beyoncé). So far, the band have received support for their work from Channel 4’s creative film initiative, Random Acts, but it remains to be seen whether the originality which lies behind their music will prove just as popular with their videos. Think smashed instruments, high-art references and cameos from supermodel Lily Cole as a rather scary mermaid, and you get a fairly good idea of Clean Bandit’s art-house productions – a refreshing but nevertheless random combination that carries through to their trendy geometric merchandise and the fish bowl handbag that cellist Grace chose to sport at this year’s Brits…
But thankfully, Clean Bandit’s music isn’t quite so abstract. The band’s soon to be released album shows a clear progression from the catchy but rough production on ‘Mozart’s House’. Based upon a winning formula of vibrant beats, a smattering of steel drums and euphoric string choruses, ‘Rather Be’ and ‘Extraordinary’ are without doubt the slickest pop songs on the record. Clearly, writer and producer of the moment Jimmy Napes has leant a helping hand here, but the band’s Disclosure-esque album is still original, ranging from funky Hip Hop influences in ‘A&E’ and mellow garage in ‘Dust Clears’ to English folk in ‘UK Shanty’. This variety continues through the band’s guest vocalists, such as sixteen year old previously unknown talent Sharna Bass, and, of course, the soulful melodies of Neil and Grace on violin and cello.
Clean Bandit, then, may well be the clever cool kids of the UK music scene, but don’t be fooled by their hipster image: behind the sophisticated hybrid labels is a fresh and addictive sound that will have you up on the dance floor, playing those arpeggio riffs on repeat, again and again.
First published in Hearing Aid, March 2014 https://www.standrewsradio.com/