Solo albums don’t have the most consistent of reputations. For every glorious escapade from regular duties, there is often an overlong lamentable, directionless exercise in self-indulgence. Whilst the platform can lead to an exploration of previously unchartered territory, often what is unleashed is a cut-price replication of former glories, executed without the rigorous quality control imposed by fellow band members.
‘Harvest Festival’ is the debut solo offering from Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, and is characterised by dreamy but fairly unambitious noodly electronica, nodding to the minimal, low-key experimentation of Aphex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works 85-92′ or the warm, soulful textures of Plaid.
Where the whimsical, lucid motifs forming the main part of ‘Pear-Shaped’ and ‘Strawberry Jam’, are pleasantly unassuming, it quickly becomes evident that the simplicity of these hooks is rarely enough to sustain momentum or concentration. The evocative playful drama and wit of Hot Chip‘s ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Ready For The Floor’ is largely missing from these inelaborate electronic workouts, and the album only serves as a subtle companion piece to Goddard’s main project’s back catalogue – bare in an unsatisfying sense rather than a stark, intimate or engaging one.
Harvest Festival serves to demonstrate how Goddard’s glitchy, house-indebted template is best enjoyed as a facet of his band’s far superior whole, and although effective in exemplifying the role he plays within Hot Chip, is hardly an essential exhibit. ‘Half Time Oranges’ reduces the tempo down to Nathan Fake-reminiscent shoegaze, yet frustratingly comes to a premature halt 2 minutes in, despite promising to progress into a grandiose soundscape. ‘Lemon and Lime (Home Time)’ is led by Goddard’s hushed tones and is as close to memorable as this album stretches. Lacking the passion to truly come alive, or the romping danceability of the day job, the album suffers from a melodic impotence that renders it unexceptional and ordinary and rarely transcends above demo level.
Plodding rhythms, obvious progressions and towering predictability hint at the idea that this collection exists for Goddard himself equally as much as for anyone elses benefit, and it’s difficult not to remain unnourished by the fruits of his labour. Decidedly lacking in innovation, but Hot Chip return in February…