808 State Album Review: Outpost Transmission 808 State: Outpost Transmission
Album Review
808 State Album Review: Outpost Transmission Manchester Evening News
9th August 2004

808 State - Outpost Transmission (Circus)

WOW - what a way to kill any doubts. Ités been a while since 1996's Don Solaris, long enough for people to question 808 Stateés place in today's dance music scene, but from the opening chords of 606 all is clear again. The kings are back to reclaim their crown.

A bullet between the eyes of a track, it comes straight at you, twanging every nerve as Simian's vocals lilt over the trademark synth.

From such a stunning start, Outpost Transmission takes an introspective turn, with Chopsumwong mixing a laid-back melody with what sounds like a cat walking all over the keyboard. Somehow it works.

But the real highlights are the collaborations. In the past, they've worked with Bernard Sumner, James Dean Bradfield, Bjork and David Bowie and their partners are equally eclectic here.

Guy Garvey from Elbow pops in for Lemonsoul, an understated track of simplistic beauty, while Crossword is a three-minute brooding nightmare fronted by Alabama 3's Reverend D. Wayne Love and Larry Love.

As ever the State take you on a journey as the album unfolds. Suntower is watching your girlfriend get dressed through bleary eyes on a summerés morning, Dissadis and Slowboat are Oriental adventures played out through repetitious melodies.

With a few tracks failing to hit the heights, Outpost Transmission lacks the sustained brilliance of Ex:el, Newbuild or 808:90.

But while this time they can't reach the stars, they still get higher than their rivals on what is a must-take trip.

[Reviewer: Jon Barbuti]

Leonard's Lair

808 State
Outpost Transmission

'Outpost Transmission' sees a return to action for the house/techno group that the Madchester fans could enjoy largely because of their indie-informed sound. Their crossover paved the way for The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers to build on their success. The core trio of Graham Massey, Darren Partington and Andrew Barker return after a six-year absence with the usual quota of guest appearances. Simian feature on '606', Elbow's Guy Garvey sings for the melancholic 'Lemonsoul' whilst two of Alabama 3 contribute to 'Crossword' which oddly resembles Faithless' chill-out anthem 'Insomnia'. As has often been the case with 808 State they achieve more satisfying results when they go it alone delivering global dance instrumentals - 'Chopsumwong', 'Suntower' and 'Slowboat' - that wouldn't have been out of place on their excellent last album 'Don Solaris'. 'Boogieman' is a rather annoying novelty but the oriental strains of 'Dissadis' and the shuffling strut of 'Bent' are well above average. Not a ground-breaking effort by anyone's standards but 808 State's gift for melody has definitely not deserted them.

3 out of 5

[Reviewer: Leonard's Lair]

  Front Magazine
Page: ??

Outpost Transmission (Circus)

A problem with dance music is naming tracks. What do you call a record that goes, ‘Beep, bur-blum-blum, weedly-weedly-wee… beep raaa’? The tracklist when we went to press included Fat German, Chopsumwong, and Roundbum Mary – difficult single to market. It doesn’t sound modern, there’s no 140bpm tracks, but then we dance too fast now anyway. A return to electro for 808, helped by Simian, Elbow and Alabama 3. Not bad.


[Reviewer: Unknown]


It would have been hard to imagine 808 State having such a low profile during the days of the massive "Cubik." Outpost Transmission is the first album by the group since entering their second decade in 1998. Five years in the making, it's not an up-front stunner but a slowly developing well-rounded collection of electronica falling outside contemporary subgenres. There's nothing to easily latch onto like back in the early days, but Outpost Transmission gives the listener more cheeky psychedelia to nose around in than any previous releases. The clever "Chopsumwong" sounds like old-school 808 being remixed by Mike Paradinas with a melody just about to fall apart, and the delicate "Suntower" brings to mind Graham Massey's work with Björk. Simian's Simon Lord guests on the stomping "606," a great track that looses some impact due to a murky mix. Elbow's Guy Garvey does well enough on the Scott Walker-meets-Yellow Magic Orchestra-flavored "Lemonsoul." Alabama 3's vocalists have less to work with on "Crossword," with its corny "no chillout!" call-out hook. When the vocal tracks are skipped it all seems much more focused. It's a mature 808 State on Outpost Transmission, and the album does take more listens than usual to appreciate.

[Reviewer: David Jeffries]

808 State Album Review: Outpost Transmission Pop Matters
13th May 2003

808 State
Outpost Transmission

Not quite as in yer face, but still gorgeous.

If pressed to name a band from the brief but terribly fun Madchester scene, odds are most would mention a band that was either not from Manchester (Blur) or was from Manchester but was established well before said period (New Order). What a pity: Manchester’s music scene was virtually unparalleled, thanks to a dearth of decent jobs and a surplus of cheap drugs. The Stone Roses unleashed one of the best records of all time. Happy Mondays made one of the best singles of all time (“Step On”). Both bands may have gone down in a haze of smoke and pills a few years later, but they left behind undisputed classics. The also-rans of the era weren’t exactly slouches, either: Primal Scream, Inspiral Carpets, James, the La’s. Not a bad on in the bunch, though apologies are perhaps in order for Northside.

Curiously, no one talks about 808 State, one of the most important bands of the scene. Where everyone else was slinging their guitars down to their knees and staring at their shoes, 808 were hammering their keyboards and drum machines (they knew how to play instruments, but couldn’t be bothered) in an attempt to tear the roof off tha sucka. Sharp and disjointed sometimes, blissful and gorgeous others, 808 were a band for both clubs and headphones. But, sadly, not radio, (remember, it’s the early ‘90s, Moby hadn’t yet made the world safe for electronic music) which may explain their diminished role in the history books.

808 State can also has the unique distinction of staying together, something to which no other Madchester band can lay claim (except the Charlatans UK, who will survive nuclear holocaust along with cockroaches and U2). After a lengthy layoff - their last proper album was 1997’s Don Solaris - 808 are back with Outpost Transmission, an album that finds them both fixing what ain’t broke and going for broke at the same time. The familiar lies in the oh-so timely guest vocalists (they should get royalty checks for the concept), while other moments imply that the boys have been listening to either hardcore jazz or Aphex Twin. It’s hard to tell.

One instant strike against Outpost Transmission is its sound, and the band has only itself to blame. Their 1991 album Ex:El, besides being one of the best electronic albums ever made, is easily the best sounding electronic album ever made, a pitch perfect balance of bottom heavy woofer beats and high-end percussion and synthesizer squeals. Outpost Transmission (and, frankly, every 808 album since Ex:El) sounds like Beethoven did the mixdown, with the bass lines dulled and the high end almost completely wiped out. Tragic. Even Daft Punk could make the fattest dance records sound equally sharp.

The one noticeable change on Outpost Transmission is its time signatures. There would usually be a song, two tops, that strayed from the standard 4/4 beat. Outpost Transmission is filled with oddball times and measures, with some songs doing drum ‘n’ bass riffs in waltz time and others simply changing speed altogether halfway through. What have these guys been listening to lately? It surely doesn’t sound like they’re surveying the landscape, nor should they. If the results aren’t as consistent as their previous work, they still speak volumes about the confidence and vision the band possesses.

Leadoff track “606” features an odd three-part female vocal from Simian (think Trio Bulgarka on Kate Bush’s “Rocket’s Tail”) that jumps around the electro-beat drum track in a seemingly different time. It’s a compelling blend of early breakdance beats, steel drums, and world beat-style singing, and sets the table rather well for what’s to come. Which is, well, everything.

“Chopsumwong” (So . . . many . . . jokes . . . must . . . resist . . .) uses the aforementioned drum ‘n’ waltz track, recalling Future Sound of London’s Lifeforms work, which makes sense, since FSOL’s classic “Papua New Guinea” was no doubt a nod to 808. The keyboards shift pitch manically while the drum tracks chug along with seemingly no regard for each other. Perhaps now it’s 808’s turn to want to be Tangerine Dream.

Or perhaps they’re still channeling Yellow Magic Orchestra, which seems to be the impetus behind “Lungfoo”. It’s filled with Kraftwerk-esque beats and a strain of experimental jazz. Likewise “Quincy’s Lunch”, which throws nonsense speaking to a beat that’s showtune one minute, slamming drum ‘n’ bass the next.

Their choices for contributors are, again, flawless, with the blessed Guy Garvey from Elbow guesting on “Lemonsoul”. They certainly picked the right song for him to sing, with a haunting backing track that recalls Peter Gabriel’s darker work. One missed opportunity, however, is the superb, slinky spy theme-tinged “Bent”, on which the band should have held Beth Gibbons at gunpoint for a vocal.

It would be cliché and misleading to say that Outpost Transmission is a world beat record. A more accurate description is that it draws influences from literally around the world. Japanese melodies, German beats, American horns, all filtered with a UK sensibility. It’s frankly difficult to compare Outpost to their earlier work simply because there is very little common ground. Sure, they’re more confident and more fearless, but does that make them better? A moot question, really. True fans of 808 State have always admired them more for their courage and open-mindedness than their ability to pack a dance floor anyway. Outpost Transmission may not be a masterpiece, but it’s damn good. More importantly, it’s encouraging to see an electronic band actually age gracefully, and on its own terms.

[Reviewer: David Medsker]

808 State Album Review: Outpost Transmission Drowned In Sound
25th February 2003

808 State
Outpost Transmission

There are two things that are certain in life: Death and Taxes, as a famous philosopher wrote. There are two things that are certain in Techno. 1: 808 State will release a fantastic album, and 2: Everyone will ignore this fact.

Finally, after several wilderness years, punctuated only by a (largely ignored, and godlike) Greatest Hits compilation, the 808 boys return to the form that was 'Don Solaris' but with MORE experimentation, and MORE originality.

This record is full of the inventiveness that those in the know have come to expect from these wily Mancs. The boys who split the atom in introducing Bjork to the freeform joys of dance based music (via the HUGE 'OOOps' from the equally MASSIVE 'EXcel' album) and broke a WHITE MANC rapper (MC Tunes) into the British pop charts have plowed their always exceptional furrow through electronica for over a decade. Each turn they have taken seems to have anticipated a completely wrong turn for the rest of the music world.

When they advanced breakbeats and hip hop stylings, the world went trance. When they stuck their necks out into new time signatures, and guest vocals from great rock stars (James Dean Bradfield/Bernard Sumner), four to the floor and Noel Gallagher were the taste of the people.

Anyway, back to this record.

The guest vocals strangely do not provide the standout tracks as so many times before seemed to be the case, as Guy Garvey (Elbow) seems to sing a little inconsequential lullaby on 'Lemonsoul'. Very nice, but nothing to scream about. * Simian* seem to be on subdued form also. It is the true 808 tracks that are breathtaking, like the CRAZY synth lines on 'Wheatstraw' and the beats that seeme to scream "It's still 89 in 2003" that permeate each hallowed bar of this long player.

What lets them down is their past significance. In every career there must come a time when the set is as strong as it ever was, but now seems curiously anachronistic, and people just take no notice of something that was is and forever will be beautiful.

I am not kidding you. If you do not have 'EXcel', then buy it. If you do. Buy this, because it will surprise you. It is an excellent album marred by its timing, as always. I love you, guys.


[Reviewer: Alice Dream]

October 2002
Page: 103

808 State Album Review: Prebuild
Overdue return of Manc techno legends It's been a long time since we heard so much as a bleep from 808 State, who in the late Eighties/earlier Nineties were, alongside Orbital, The Aphex Twin, etc, among the leading techno auteurs. Graham Massey did assist Björk with her solo career, but that doesn't entirely account for their absence.

With Outpost Transmission, however, they pick up where they left off getting on for a decade ago. They prefer a neater, wirier, angular techno style as opposed to the cruder, phatter assault of a Prodigy. There are guest vocalists here but 808 State sound at their most fluent on the instrumentals. "Chopsumwong" is typical, like a virtual tour around yet-to-be-occupied state-of-the-art techno premises, "Fat German" recalls DAF, all skewed and cubic, while "Roundbum Mary"'s title betrays a sneaking, Manc-laddish shame at their immaculate musical constructions. Don't be embarrassed. Great to have you back.

[Reviewer: David Stubbs]