SOUND: SYNTHPOP/ELECTRONIC ROCK
Beginning with swirling Middle Eastern-flavoured strings that recall the lavish cultural romances of their videos, 'LUX' makes for a grand Disney-tinged prologue to the dreamy synth wash of the record proper. Empire of The Sun has always relished in heavy production, and they certainly do not deviate here. 'DNA' lathers warm synthesisers over processed acoustic guitars and Steele's sultry vocals in typical dream-pop style. Think M83 with less edge. 'Alive' belongs on a music festival trailer with its chants and anthemic chorus: "loving every minute because you make me feel so alive". There's nothing sonically new happening here and it's very simple stuff, but likely to appeal to the generic Big Day Outing masses.
It becomes quickly apparent that while 'Ice On The Dune' is by no means a daring record, there are some fine moments to be enjoyed. 'Concert Pitch' is musically bright and upbeat over a surprising vocal yearning that can easily be missed on distracted listening. This is pop music that can be tuned in and out of while continuing to exist effectively without being a slave to the lyrical. Steele asserts that the songs are about the melodies, remarking that music is his version of a universal language that can close gaps and express the feelings that words cannot (check out those music videos and you'll see what he means). That said, the man can write can write a half decent ballad. 'I'll Be Around' marks a beautiful change of pace from the proceeding tide of dance tracks. It's devoted love song with reverb-drenched everything, and it swims pleasantly through the conscious. There's space on the track to let the sentiment breathe, and it offers itself as a welcome deviation (however slight).
Empire of The Sun has always relished in heavy production, and they certainly do not deviate here.
'Old Flavours' comes in line with the trending zeitgeist, living up to its name with a distinctly Daft Punk feel that's bound to be quickly assimilated amongst the monster hype currently surrounding the helmeted duo and that song. It's a competent exercise in house music, with substantial dance floor appeal. Interestingly, Empire Of The Sun save their biggest surprise for last, closing the album out with some key driven Bowie-esque balladry on 'Keep A Watch' which works a treat.
'Ice On The Dune' stands up as a fitting sequel to 'Walking On A Dream', bursting with warm shimmery synth pop, lavish production and a sense of visual theatrics. It's a very comfortable record and will doubtlessly yield some festival favourites with Steele and Littlemore seeming intent on creating the next series of summer songs (despite the record's winter release date). For something that's positive and crowd-pleasing without being consistently adventurous, you can do a lot worse than 'Ice On The Dune' - and I'm sure we'll be hearing a few more of its cuts on the airwaves before the chill thaws.