Duo Michael David and Tyler Blake were childhood friends but having both been involved with music they only started recording together in 2007, David having previously fronted a major-label signed band in school and Blake having studied at Berklee School of Music. A lot of time has passed since they started working together and since their 2009 breakthrough track 'I'll Get You' (which features here). Whilst there have been some high profile remixes (The Gossip, Major Lazer and their fantastic Phoenix mix, amongst others) it feels like this debut album has been a long time coming.
The fact that the label chose this week, a week in advance of Daft Punk's ridiculously hyped Random Access Memories launches (and the same week a free stream of that album is released on iTunes), is at best a misstep. Effectively our robotic French friends have sucked all of the air out of the room, the rest of the apartment and the house over the road.
Hopefully Hanging Gardens finds an audience all the same. Fans of their mixes and earlier releases will find and welcome a familiar sound - a warm disco-influenced house sound that references the very sounds Daft Punk popularised, whilst bringing a softness that is Classixx's own. With seemingly Olympics-referencing cover-art and an album title inspired by one of the seven wonders of the world this is an album that feels a little bit global and athletic - a celebration of effort and culture.
The title track opens the album with a big Fleetwood Mac sample, taken from their Tango In The Night track Seven Wonders (hence that album name). It's a luscious opening, full of arpeggiated melodies and big synths that lend the album a dramatic feel and conjure images of glorious tropical islands and deep blue swimming pools.
There are a combination of sounds on Hanging Gardens but the overall feel is electronic disco. Holding On is sunny French-touch influenced pop with an ambient effect applied to the vocals that adds to the lagoon-swimming atmosphere. There are also plenty of moments for the duo to show a more laid back, almost chill wave sound - the spectral chords and tuneful percussion of Long Lost, a collaboration with Active Child that sounds like tears cried over distant loves whilst on holiday, for example.
I'll Get You continues to shine even after several years, it's handclaps and glittering filtered chorus still incessantly catchy. The track's somewhat playful structure, which switches quickly from cool gentle breaks to a big drop at the chorus still speaks very much to the duo's style. It's refreshingly free of cynicism but also precludes it from being the big breakthrough track it sounds like it could be.
It's the tougher moments inspired by late nights dancing that are the most fun. Rhythm Santa Clara is a chunky rhythmic electro party - thick bass, hi-hats and vocal samples creating a tight, minimal track that melds into the 80s riffing flamenco celebration that is Dominos. All You're Waiting For, with vocals from Nancy Whang, feels like the most obvious single - it's a snappy and sassy party track full of polished melodies and assertive lyrics that sounds like a glammed-up modern disco take on Human League.
Hanging Gardens admittedly trails off a little in quality over the second half but overall it's a pleasurable modern disco record, albeit one that arrives just as Daft Punk have seemingly changed the game by looking more directly at the past to direct the future.