It's absolutely no exaggeration to say that Black Light, Groove Armada's sixth album proper which was released in January of this year, was nothing less than a revelation. Many - myself included -had long written off Andy Cato and Tom Findlay as a spent creative force, good for providing incidental music for DFS adverts and the occasional festival appearance, but increasingly seeming irrelevant in a world dominated by poppy ex-grimers and the pervasive evil of r n' b.
How we were left to eat our words. Black Light was the sound of an outfit taking risks and disposing of its "chill out" baggage with relish, a record which was grown up but not boring, sophisticated but never bland. One of the main reasons for its success was the recruitment of a wisely chosen roster of collaborators, including the likes of Bryan Ferry and Empire of The Sun's Nick Littlemore, each of whom brought something of their own to a collection of songs which reference the likes of Bowie, Roxy Music and eighties synth pop in general. Also notable was something of a rehabilitation for mum's favourite Will Young, whose falsetto turn on History, with all its references to Bronski Beat's gay anthem Smalltown Boy, consciously showed that there was another side to his nature lurking beneath the Radio 2 image.
White Light is a remix album with a difference; normally in these exercises other people are drafted in to give the source material their interpretation, but instead of ringing Diplo et al, this time Cato and Findlay have done it themselves. Described by the duo as studio reworkings of the "King size live versions" of Black Light songs played to festival crowds, there's also one new track, 1980, which holds dear all the same references as Ladyhawke and would doubtless similarly have sounded great on the stereo of an MG Metro.
Bryan Ferry doesn't make another cameo appearance, but the rest of the gang's all here, with Young's History cropping up twice, the first being reinterpreted a la classic New Order in their Ibiza period, whilst the downtempo Love mix feels like it's arrived to find the party's finished. Either way, it's still the singer's haunting vocals which linger most in the memory.
The most striking element of Black Light was its ability to take, big, stadium rocking dynamics and still make music which could be played in a club, especially on the likes of Look Me In The Eye Sister and Not Forgotten, it's skyscraping highlight. Both are back for repeat business here, the former if anything even more epic than previously, with singer Jess Larrabee starring as a paid in full diva, whilst the latter sadly loses much of its power in a fuzzy low end. If the point of White Light is to create some new points of reference, then it delivers on this promise; the stars of the show this time are the less vaunted Paper Romance (Anthemic 6 a.m. disco) and Time And Space (Shades of Fleetwood Mac's Tango In The Night).
With the baton now safely passed on to the likes of The Count & Sinden, Groove Armada are free to experiment with perception changing, doubtless confusing the Asda crowd in the process. Both White and Black Light have shown that they have this previously hidden capacity for reinvention, where to next is anyone's guess - we hope.