As someone who doesn’t listen to a lot of electronic music, and who connects to a lot of my favourite music on a lyrical level in the first instance, Warm Digits feel like a bit of a departure. This is pure electronica. And opening track ‘Frames and Cages’ does nothing to dislodge that initial assessment. With its bleeps and bloops and its rumbling bassline, it displays a lot of the elements of the music that, these days, I usually only hear at 3am in the morning at a festival once the folk music has put itself to bed. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy this genre, because I do. It’s just that I more enjoy it after several pints of beer, than while sitting with my poached eggs in the morning and thinking about how to write my review.
And it wasn’t the genre that first attracted me to this album, either: it was the list of contributing artists. With Paul Smith of Maximo Park, Rozi Plain, The Orielles, Emma Pollock, and The Lovely Eggs all appearing on different tracks across the album, it felt like a who’s who of up and coming British acts alongside a couple of more established names who I’ve long been a fan of. It felt exciting. It also felt like it would be worthwhile to give the album a go, because if Warm Digits were able to pull such an impressive list of names together then they must really have something going for them.
It was then, unsurprisingly, the songs with features that first drew me in to this album. The impossibly slick ‘The View From Nowhere’ is a particular highlight, with a measured and cool-as-fuck vocal delivery on top of instrumentation that veers between calm and chaos. Paul Smith’s appearance on ‘Fools Tomorrow’ is equally arresting as he half sings, half raps over looping beats and an aggressive drumbeat. It is probably the most club-ready track on the album, but Smith manages to give it that trademark Maximo Park wit that makes his band so well loved.
But, in these times of lockdown and social distancing, it was probably two songs that took on a completely new meaning which I connected with the most. With The Lovely Eggs telling us to ‘Feel the Panic’ on track 2 before Rozi Plain, closer to the end of the album, does a great job of translating her folk vocal stylings to a different type of music in ‘Everyone’s Nervous.’ This is probably the closest to ‘ambient’ that the band get, and Rozi is the perfect vocalist for such a song. The lyrics about nervousness and paranoia were clearly not written with our current situation in mind, but it is difficult not to connect to them in that way while you’re listening to this song during your government allotted one walk of the day.
It feels like a copout, though, for me to only comment on those songs that I am able to connect with in my more familiar terms, such as lyrics and vocals. I have already mentioned ‘Frames and Cages’, and if I’m being honest I find that a slightly abrasive opener to the album. But as we delve deeper into the album, through songs like ‘I’m Okay, You’re Okay’ and ‘Replication’, I find myself being really sucked in. There is a quiet, measured beauty to these songs. I find myself noticing all the layers and the intricacies and it is, for me at least, the smaller details that really hit home. The tiny sounds in the songs that show just how much work Warm Digits put into their craft.
So overall, this was a successful experiment for me. Without too many reference points, I would have to say that one of the closest comparisons I can lean on is The Chemical Brothers, back when they were putting out dance and electronica but bringing in the big boys of indie and Britpop. But Warm Digits feels a level removed from that – a group looking for authentic feeling more than chart friendly bangers. Well worth a listen.
Words by Fran Slater