Outer Edges is the second studio album to be released by the Dutch electronic trio known as Noisia. The debut album “Split The Atom” was released around 2010 (unfortunately Disposable Media had yet to be relaunched so it was never covered) and delivered an energetic and inventive selection of drum and bass tunes, leaving fans eager for more. Whilst Noisia has kept itself busy with things like the special edition release of Split The Atom, collaborations with The Upbeats, music for DmC and more, the release of Outer Edges is a welcome reminder of why we found the debut album so enjoyable. Unfortunately, this new release has had a troubled launch – a leak of the album meant that Noisia had to act fast, and so they put the album up on their web store more than a month in advance of the planned September 16 release date. Their sadness and frustration over the situation was palpable when they sent out a message on Facebook detailing what had happened, but fans have shown support and sympathy on social media channels – Disposable Media itself appreciates that this is far from the launch they would have wanted, and respects the course of action taken.
Outer Edges – easing you in
Outer Edges contains a lot of what you would expect from a new Noisia release – there is plenty of energetic drum and bass in there, a few more low-key tracks, a few slower tracks, and a whole that seems varied in quality but contains a few standouts. The short intro track “The Approach” hardly goes anywhere but is a nice way of easing in to “Anomaly” – one of the tracks that had been previewed on Soundcloud and remains a standout with its shifts in rhythm and well-rounded structure. I had been listening to Anomaly repeatedly for quite some time whilst waiting for the album, and it still hasn’t lost any of its appeal. “Collider” then slows things down a bit but still has plenty of big beats and harsh effects that give it lots of flavour, as well as moments of calm amongst the noise. It could be said that a few core hooks are repeated too often and the song could be shorter and still find fans, but it’s still worth a listen. “Vigilantes” is a more curious track; slow beats, squelchy effects and warped samples create something that’s a welcome change of pace, but despite the catchy rhythms it still feels more like an interlude than something with any staying power.
Outer Edges – momentum and missed opportunity
Moving on, the track “Tentacles” makes its identity known from the outset, with increasingly distorted repititions of the word “tentacles” before a steady beat comes in and is accompanied with wobbly effects. It’s one of the more forgettable tracks on the album, and like Vigilantes it feels a little bit like filler. The following track “Voodoo” starts off promisingly, with great drum rolls and build-ups, but the payoff is a little lacking to begin with; there are steady beats and washy effects that overstay their welcome a little bit, and just as you think the tune is starting to pick up again, there’s another slightly disappointing drop. A real missed opportunity. “Mantra” is a little more successful with its build-up in that the beat drop complements the layers that have already been built, rather than coming across as an anticlimax. Additionally, it maintains its sense of momentum throughout, and I think that it joins Anomaly as one of the more successful tracks. The short track “Surfaceless” also acts as a welcome interlude; it’s surprisingly chilled and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It would make a great contrast from something with fast pace and lots of noise, but sadly “Straight Hook” doesn’t take advantage of this possibility – the lack of structure and identity make it rather forgettable, and the slightly offbeat nature of certain elements doesn’t even save it with novelty value.
Outer Edges – great intros and lack of character
“Stonewalled” makes a good effort at trying to save things with a simple but quick base rhythm in the beginning, and it kind of succeeds in doing more with less; it doesn’t sound like there’s a whole lot to the track, but what’s there makes for good listening and it’s over before you start to think it might drag on. “Motion Blur” follows and has a dreamy intro with no backbeat that transitions into a fairly simple bass and beat with some pleasing ambience. It’s not a particularly exciting track, but it’s not too offensive either. “The Entangled” has slow pseudo-dubstep rhythms complementing melodic beeps that have a pleasing, almost chiptune-style quality to them, and the drops and build-ups aren’t bad, but again it feels a little slow compared to the likes of “Mantra” and “Anomaly”. The following track “Exavolt” doesn’t do much to help the cause either; the unique rhythm and rich ambience don’t sit well with the sporadic beeps in other moments and it’s another track lacking in character. Meanwhile “Into Dust” spends far too long on its build-up to deliver anything of interest in time.
“Miniatures” and “Sinkhole” both have a weird, slow, low-key vibe that helps the two tracks to complement one another and create another interesting interlude, although the latter relies on its sampled chatter a little too much for my liking. “Miniatures” at least has a nice chilled vibe to it, even if that’s not what you might expect from the likes of Noisia. Anyway, as the album draws to a close there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said; catchy beats that need a song with a stronger sense of structure and progression, tracks that could have ended a little sooner, build-ups that aren’t justified by the drops, chopped-up samples that don’t add enough to the mix of sounds, and occassional flashes of brilliance (the second half of “Get Deaded”)
Outer Edges – difficult second album?
There’s no doubt that Outer Edges has a lot of good content and is at least worth a listen on streaming sites, but when Split The Atom had the great vocals and big drops of “My World”, or the superb structure of “Shellshock”, or the iconic sound of “Stigma”…you start to wonder what the equivalents are on Outer Edges. “Anomaly” has a lot of flavour and never gets old, and “The Entangled” may improve with repeat listens, but the standouts aren’t immediately evident… For the moment, we recommend giving this some time with streaming services before you commit to a purchase.