Simian all funked up

Brit electro crew discover Neptunes

SIMIAN opening for LADYTRON at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Monday (February 24), $16. 416-870-8000.

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While no one was looking, the psychedelicized home recording project known as Simian suddenly changed direction. Instead of wasting long hours on laptops creating even more oblique bleepscapes, the recent We Are Your Friends (Astralwerks) disc shows the London via Manchester crew coming out of their artsy-fartsy shell with a far more engaging sound employing melodies, verses and even choruses — just like real pop songs.

There’s also a shocking new booty-bumpin’ dimension to the grooves that suggests that somehow Neptunes- and Timbaland-tweaked joints have found their way into the group’s listening mix, which once seemed to begin and end with Warp label releases. What’s going on here?

“Because we made our first recording, Chemistry Is What We Are, before we started performing,” explains drummer James Ford before a show in Philadelphia, “everyone would just play whatever instrument he wanted on any given track. It was just an experiment in making music.

“Eventually, I ended up on the drums, Alex (MacNaghten) took the bass, Jas (Shaw) the keyboards, with Simon (Lord) singing and playing guitar, and we assumed those roles when we made the second one. We found that playing live had a strong influence on the new recording. There’s a lot more energy and dynamics, and the songs are a lot easier to perform.”

That clears up the dramatic changes in Simian’s method of arranging their songs, but it still doesn’t account for the welcome turn toward danceable jams. So how did they get funky? Evidently, Ford’s experiences moonlighting as a club DJ proved highly informative.

“There was definitely a shift in the kind of electronic music we were listening to,” admits Ford, “from the cerebral, dreamy-type stuff toward more of the dance-oriented club music. We were also listening to a lot of psychedelic soul music from the late 60s and early 70s like Shuggie Otis and Sly Stone that we tried to incorporate into what we were doing.

“Our goal was to make an upbeat, positive-sounding album as opposed to the downtempo bedroomy feel of the first one. It was just a reaction to ourselves. We wanted to move forward, challenge ourselves and confuse ourselves as well as other people.

“The next record we make could be completely different again. It might be all acoustic. We may even decide to do a country record! It could be anything — we just want to keep changing.”

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