Album Review: Beyond The Wizards Sleeve – The Soft Bounce

Much to the duo’s dismay, it was pretty early on in their existence that Beyond The Wizards Sleeve was revealed to be made up of Erol Alkan – DJ, producer, Phantasy Sound label boss – and Richard Norris – best-selling producer and one half of The Grid. Today it’s already been a decade since the talented artists started releasing captivating ‘re-animations’ of tracks and DJing at small venues, free to explore records and sounds that their respective audiences wouldn’t normally expect from them. Now Alkan and Norris have taken the leap into producing original material under the Beyond The Wizards Sleeve name, and the result is the 11-track LP The Soft Bounce, out via Phantasy Sound.

Describing the album as trippy and psychedelic would be an immediate and almost instinctive reaction to its sound, but it’s imperative not to confine the record to a ‘psychedelic’ label and calling upon the ghost of the ‘throwback’ sound. The Soft Bounce is anything but a ‘throwback’ or ‘retro’ album – every song journeys effortlessly from past to present to future, the sum of these parts add up to a strangely cohesive album with a beautifully Balearic air about it. To quote Norris’s own words fromn 2009: ‘[BTWS] is influenced by the openness that you had during the whole Balearic era – lots of different types of records played alongside each other, records that didn’t necessarily have to be the same BPM – as long as it was good, it was played.’

While the trippy-ness of The Soft Bounce is undeniable, listen upon listen I find myself incapable of shaking off the feeling that the record is a film. Not a soundtrack to a film but the film itself. The songs all give out a taste of drama and provoke one’s imagination to envision vivid imagery. It’s in the Bond-like violins of stand-out track ‘Black Crow’, the surfer vibe of ‘Creation’, the dreamy French New Wave feel of ‘Diagram Girl’, the 7-minute long outer space or deep ocean odyssey of ‘Tomorrow, Forever’, and the drums of the title track invoking scenes of a predator stalking its prey in the African wilderness. The closing ‘Third Mynd’ wraps up the listener’s experience with descriptions of hallucinogenic drug trips read out by Jon Savage and perfectly loops the listener into playing the album once more from the start. It’s no wonder that the videos planned to accompany five tracks from the record are actually a series of shorts, crafted by Bafta-winning director Kieran Evans, which will eventually make up a long form film called And So To Sleep.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s behind Beyond The Wizards Sleeve for the band, as it exists in its own distinctive realm. It may draw upon familiar influences but they flip them to create something new.

The Soft Bounce
is out now.

Written by Raya Raycheva