More than Oasis: Noel Gallagher's history in dance music
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Noel Gallagher has been going ‘solo’ for nearly seven years now, straying further and further away from the crutch of Oasis.
With the upcoming release of his third studio album with The High Flying Birds, it’s fair to say that Who Built the Moon? is going to explore a different side of Gallagher musically; one that he has been spreading around the British music scene for decades – even when he was still in Oasis.
Gallagher has always dipped his toe into the world of electronic music; from big beat and trip hop to ambient tracks, he has collaborated with a number of artists in the dance scene to produce some of the greatest tracks of the 90s and 2000s – and is refreshingly funnelling this experience into the upcoming record through legendary producer David Holmes.
Here are seven songs that span Gallagher’s forays into different corners of the electronic spectrum; from his first association with The Chemical Brothers to the recently released High Flying Birds single ‘Holy Mountain’.
Setting Sun | The Chemical Brothers (1997)
Arguably Gallagher’s best collaboration, The Chemical Brothers ‘Setting Sun’ from Dig Your Own Hole (1997) is an insane slice of big beat psychedelia created by two legendary Mancunian acts.
On receiving the original demo Gallagher was confused believing there was no tune to work with - just six minutes of distorted whirring loops. He eventually found his footing with the track, recycling the lyrics of an early Oasis demo (‘Comin’ on Strong’) to create what he believed to be ‘one of the best things [he’s] ever done’.
The video treatment to ‘Setting Sun’ injects more character into the tune, personifying the split personalities of ravers in the late 80s and early 90s; imagining these ‘trips’ as a collective demonic possession of split personalities.Temper Temper | Goldie (1998)
Hailed as a pioneer of the drum and bass genre, Goldie’s second record Saturnz Return features guest appearances by David Bowie, Malcolm McLaren, Trevor Horn, KRS-One and, of course, Noel Gallagher.
Without watching the music video for ‘Temper Temper’, it is hard to recognise Gallagher’s contribution to the track on first listen. It isn’t until you realise that this murky jungle track had layers of distorted guitars … played by Gallagher. And watching the music video, it becomes painfully obvious that Gallagher is involved.
Gallagher has said himself of the song, “It’s the most disgusting dirty jungle track I’ve ever heard.”Teotihuacan | Noel Gallagher (1998)
In between Be Here Now (1997) and Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2000), Gallagher composed the track ‘Teotihuacan’ for The X-Files movie soundtrack in 1998.
Fitting the tones and aesthetics of The X-Files beautifully, ‘Teotihuacan’ explores the ambient electronica and trip-hop genres in the midst of similar sounds courtesy of Moby, The Orb and Massive Attack.
Inspired by the pyramids of the sun and moon in Teotihuacán, Mexico, the track Gallagher created for The X-Files soundtrack breathes his contemplation and awe of the site. More insight to the track was given in a Jonathon Ross interview in 2014, where Gallagher revealed that he stopped taking drugs in the same year citing that he was fed up with talking about pyramids, aliens and conspiracy theories; presumably, this drug addiction comprised part of this psychedelic, trip-hop arrangement.
‘Teotihuacan’ introduced Oasis fans to an early indication as to what Standing on the Shoulder of Giants would sound like. The ambient and hallucinogenic intricacies Gallagher began playing with during ‘Teotihuacan’s recording can be heard in the tracks ‘Gas Panic!’ and ‘Who Feels Love?’ on the album.
The track was also sampled by Ian Brown on his song 'Keep What Ya Got', with Gallagher appearing alongside Brown in the accompanying music video.
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The second single from their third album Surrender, ‘Let Forever Be’ is the second collaboration between The Chemical Brothers and Gallagher.
‘Let Forever Be’ focuses on a similar big beat style to that of ‘Setting Sun’, whilst it plays as a much more upbeat track compared to the darkness enveloped by the whirring loops explored previously. Gallagher received the track similarly to ‘Setting Sun’ to begin work on; being given the rack finished on tape with no vocals.
Gallagher believed the track was better as an instrumental but loves the way The Chemical Brothers can just simply create ‘good music’.Shoot Down | The Prodigy (2004)
The Prodigy are known for their vicious, grimy techno/rave/punk tracks, especially surrounding their first three records; particularly on the 1997 release The Fat of the Land.
Their fourth record, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned contrasts to these records, focusing more on vocal collaborations.
This is prevalent on the track ‘Shoot Down’, which features both Liam and Noel Gallagher on vocals and bass guitar respectively. The contributions of the Gallagher’s do not diminish The Prodigy’s heavy aura but creates a fascinating bridge between hard techno and Britpop.
We Got the Power | Gorillaz (2017)
In a surprise turn of events, Gallagher collaborated with Damon Albarn on Gorillaz fifth record Humanz earlier this year.
Released as the second single of the record on 23rd March, ‘We Got the Power’ features Gallagher on backing vocals and guitar. Gallagher also collaborated with Albarn, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Savages’ Jehnny Beth to co-write the track. Humanz is experimental to say the least, with ‘We Got the Power’ carrying synth-pop undertones and an all-around, feel-good vibe.
Albarn and Gallagher were famously part of ‘The Battle of Britpop’ in 1995, when Oasis’ single ‘Roll with It’ ended up contending with Blur’s single ‘Country House’, with both competing to reach the top of the UK charts. Blur eventually ‘won’, with ‘Country House’ snapping the number one spot and ‘Roll with It’ following at number two.
The public dislike between Albarn and Gallagher had dissipated over the years, resulting in the eventual collaboration on ‘We Got the Power’.Holy Mountain | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (2017)
Produced by prolific producer David Holmes, the first single from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds upcoming third album is vastly different from the band’s previous work.
A much more upbeat, happy dance track, ‘Holy Mountain’ plays with a 137 BPM and an infectiously strange whistle sample from the rare track ‘Chewing Gum Kid’ by 60s band The Ice Cream. In regards to the entirety of Who Built the Moon? both Holmes and Gallagher have commented on the spontaneity and drastic change of the new record.
Holmes pushed Gallagher to create new sounds; steering away from the conventional Oasis-y choruses that fans come to expect with Gallagher’s work. In an interview with Radio X, Noel explained how he had written some songs and shown Holmes, to which he replied, ‘The verses are great, but the choruses just sound like Oasis … we’ve all heard that from the last 25 years, do something different.’
In a press release, Holmes’ stated that ‘People are going to be surprised [with the record]. I think people love Noel and they’re desperate for him to make a really big, bold, up-tempo beast of a record – a lot of Noel’s music is mid-tempo. This one is fun.”
Gallagher has already revealed that Who Built the Moon? is his favorite album that he’s ever recorded, and you can definitely hear his enthusiasm through the up-tempo boldness of ‘Holy Mountain’, along with influences from his past collaborations in the electronic genre.