Artist: 2 Bit Pie
Title: 2 Pie Island
Label: One Little Indian
By: Devon Shaw | 13 August 2006
  1. Fly
  2. Here I Come
  3. Colours
  4. Nobody Never
  5. Soto Mundo
  6. PIL
  7. Little Things
  8. Mote
  9. Slipaway
  10. After Hours

2 Bit Pie "2 Pie Island"2 Bit Pie "2 Pie Island"

Out Now on One Little Indian

In early 2005, a curiosity by the name of 2 Bit Pie emerged with a little-advertised single called 'Nobody Never'. Closer inspection of the group revealed the producers: Jon Fulger and Mike Bryant of world-class production outfit Fluke. Originating with 'Thumper' in 1989 and following later with such early hits as 'Electric Guitar' and 'Slid,' this group helped write the book on progressive house throughout the 90s. Their popularity spiked in 1997 with the commercial success of album 'Risotto', featuring two widely acclaimed hits 'Atom Bomb' and 'Absurd.' A six year hiatus ensued before patient fans were rewarded with 'Puppy,' Fluke's latest album to date.

'2 Pie Island' is a merciful sparing to Fluke fans old and new, a sigh of relief at only a three year wait since their last major splash. 2 Bit Pie, while a new band name, carries all the strengths and traditions of the roots their members are known for. Littered across the disc are various collaborations, notably Andy Gray (Korn, Paul Oakenfold), Jan Burton (Syntax), Yukiko Ishii (Sea Shell), Louise Marshall, Marli Buck and Margo Buchanan. The mileage of the shopping list varies, though at the core this album strongly delivers as a Fluke album would be expected to.

The first sign of direction starts with the catchy, bass riff of lead track 'Fly', soloing it's way through the intro as the layers of acid synths pile on top one by one. The result is Fluke's trademark quality wall of sound before Fulger's familiar vocals enter in to declare, "No time to live, no time to die. No place to run, no place to hide." Yuki's vocal hooks punctuate the edge of each verse, leading way into Burton's epic soaring through the chorus. The housey undertones, rolling bass and lyrical progressions call to mind the spirit of 'Puppy's' Electric Blue, and -- along with Andy Gray's pristine touch -- delivers the goods as a strong lead.

'Here I Come' kicks off with a funky, bouncy bass line and tosses in a flanged, filtered lead synth to wash over the track with a delightfully punchy vibe. Fulger again takes the lead duties ("Hey, hey, Mr. Right I know a girl who might, like to meet you if you've got enough time tonight") as Barton and Marli Buck chime in for the chorus. This is a song that will resonate with early fans of Thumper and Slid, and remains one of the more lighthearted moments of the album.

'Colours' wastes no time getting down to business, and proves Fulger and Bryant still have it it them. A heavily filtered acid bass gives us the dark, progressive house we yearn for, building and rising with a series of epic pads and a beautiful use of minor chord synths. Five minutes of continual build, layer upon layer of grungy guitars, synths and percussive drums all leads way to a final climaxing at the end, coasting towards the end of a job well done.

Fourth up is the album edit of well-known 'Nobody Never'. The syncopated breakbeat pattern finds accompaniment with a sultry blend of chemical synth hooks that gives a further voxed-out Fulger a sonic playground rivaled by few. Unfortunately Louise Marshall's 80's-inspired dance vocals bring a painful, misplaced feel to the kind of song being performed. Enjoyable and arguably the most commercially accessible song on '2 Pie Island', but also the most overproduced.

Immediately into 'Soto Mundo', we are graced with the goosebump-inducing vocals of singer Dilshani Weerasinghe of the Royal Opera House. The storm of inevitable floor beats looms in the background before coming in alongside the bandpass filters and faint guitar work. The first few minutes pound along before the beat pauses and the dust settles in a haunting pitch drop. The filters sweeps and delayed arpeggiated sounds build alongside Dilshani's voice slowly to a thrilling peak that carries along for the remainder of the track, stopping only briefly again to catch it's breath. This track serves as the mid-album opus of sorts, though a live re-enacting would be mind-bending to a tune like this.

The sixth track 'Pil' changes gears completely and opts for a Nine Inch Nails industrial rock sound with a few layers of indie guitars and blazed with Fulger's voice, harsh, ripped and distorted. The squeal of riffs are accompanied by some electro-laden effects, lending a respectful credence to 2 Bit Pie's venture into rocktronica. While a slight misstep in the album's direction, this is top-quality and mind-bogglingly well-produced.

Freakishly cold atmospherics lead the introduction of groove box 'Little Things'. A funky slap bass carries the tune, Fulger's voice is warm yet distant, wet reverb washes back and forth through the soundscape and voice transmissions break through at random intervals. This song might as well have come from the moon. Also worthy of note is the first appearance on the album of singer/songwriter Margo Buchanan, who lends her dynamic voice to the chorus, to great effect. This could be considered the logical progression from OTO, and sits as one of the better tracks of the album.

'Mote' finally gives us the first true downtempo track of the album and the leading vocal role is cast to Yuki at last, who whispers and pleads through a destructive vox and leads the way in for Fulger. Modulated bass and a mid-song transition into plodding drums and a subdued string section caps this psychedelic and moving, yet disturbing late-album cooldown.

'Slipaway' fires like Snapshot in slow motion. The drums are stripped down, albeit in a breakbeat pattern. The song is largely devoid of a consistent bassline, opting instead to punch through with arpeggiated effects and Fulger's growling over another brilliantly orchestrated combination of pads and strings. Not the strongest track here, but will warm up to repeated listens and stand the test of time.

Wrapping things up is the epic 'After Hours'. Immediately a low kickdrum pounds the frequency, the percussion stamps it's presence and the proverbial darkness is lit up with a soundscape of eerie guitars, airy pads, modulated effects and Margo Buchanan's fabulously haunting vocals. The track continues to build and seep under the weight of more elements before crumbling down into a wash of panned effects, leaving you cold and stuck somewhere in the middle of a John Carpenter nightmare. Things promptly pick back up again and carry you all the way towards the end, moving and twisting through the rhythmic tribal house, pausing again for a final climax by Margo. Easily the strongest track of the album.

Despite the long list of collaborations, what we've been presented is really the next Fluke album in disguise. The production methods are tight. The sound design has never been cleaner and more balanced. The artistic direction takes cues from Fulger and Bryant's previous work while expanding just enough to venture in new directions. Individually as tracks this album is strong, as a cohesive whole it is a work of art. Initial listens will require patience, and those who grant it will be rewarded accordingly. '2 Pie Island' is an inspiring addition to the accomplishments in progressive house, and serves as a faithful delivery to veterans of the Fluke sound and new fans alike.

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