It’s crazy to think that A Bath Full of Ecstasy is Hot Chip‘s seventh offering but since Coming on Strong was released in 2004, they have had a success of distinctively successful albums over the last fifteen years, and I doubt they are going to lose this reputation anytime soon, with this new one. An inherently fresh, and new sound for Hot Chip, albeit clinging onto all their endearing elements, which tell you it’s definitely still this band, A Bath Full of Ecstasy sees them use outside producers from the offset. This is the first time the band have chosen to do this. Working with Philippe Zdar (Cat Power, Beastie Boys, Phoenix, Cassius) and Rodaidh McDonald (The XX, Sampha, David Byrne), there is a notable shift in the sound, but one that to my ears, enhances the sweet sound of Alexis Taylor’s vocals, and those melodies.
Hot Chip were originally formed in London in 2000, consisting of multi-instrumentalists Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, Al Doyle, Owen Clarke, and Felix Martin, supplemented by Rob Smoughton and Sarah Jones for live performances and studio recordings. Hot Chip primarily produces music in the synth-pop and alternative dance genres, drawing influences from house and disco but as is shown with this LP, certainly cross genres, and delve into other places.
The album’s opening track, for example, Melody of Love, began life as a 12-minute instrumental track featuring a sample from the gospel group The Mighty Clouds of Joy, giving it a much more soulful sound. However, producer Rodaidh McDonald altered it into a wonderful explosion of Technicolor pop, bringing the music back to what we know from Hot Chip. The song is about the significance of the transformative, non-verbal moment, the ecstasy to be found in transcendence, of being outside oneself. Alexis’ vocals and lyricism throughout this track, affecting and somewhat transcendental in themselves, allows us to be taken to this level. Still incorporating a sample from the gospel choir, there is not only something soulful injected into this track, but furthering this idea of being taken to a different place.
Spell has less of those falsetto notes, but with that chorus, and those hooks, takes you too under Taylor’s spell. Title track, stripped down ballad, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, with a vocal reverb, and instrumental interlude, is perhaps the most disappointing of the tracks on this album, stealing us away from the euphoric anthems we are so used to from this band. Hungry Child sees a move back to what we know from Hot Chip, but with a mix of vocals on this track, not simply Alexis, but this gives it a deeper house sound. Positive, with all of it’s pings and pows, the synth and percussion, and poetic lyricism, is a real uplifting track, despite some of the lyrics.
Why Does My Mind is a colourful track, with so many textural layers and yet somewhat of a folk vibe to it, clouding the deeper elements to it. Alexis’ lyric, can you hear me? becomes more literal for the listener. It’s almost refreshing to be hit with the next track, Clear Blue Skies, like the clouding has dispersed and we can see right again.
A refreshingly profound album from Hot Chip, there is a notable shift with this seventh album, varied and soulful on several levels. A Bath Full of Ecstasy is a record that reinforces Hot Chip’s permanence on the music map, as we see deeper substance and a wise production decision.
A Bath Full of Ecstasy is out on 21st June, via Domino Records.