Free Love – Extreme Dance Anthems (4 stars)

Free Love – Extreme Dance Anthems

Duo's follow-up to their SAY shortlisted EP expands on their sublime and punchy synthpop sound

We don't have access to a physical copy of the new album by electro-mystic Glasgow duo Free Love, aka Suzi Rodden and Lewis Cook, but it might help new listeners if it came with some sort of roadmap to their complex recorded history. Despite the fact last year's eight-track EP Luxury Hits was on the shortlist for this year's Scottish Album of the Year Award, this six-track collection – also their first full release on the Optimo Music label – is in fact their debut album proper as Free Love. Yet, following their change of name from Happy Meals in 2017, it's actually their third album together since 2014. Or fourth, if you count Luxury Hits … which is a confusing introduction for anyone who wishes to explore their sublime back catalogue.

Anyway, all of this reinventive practice means that Extreme Dance Anthems (which is, lets be clear, wonderfully named) has accidentally found itself positioned as the traditional 'difficult second album' to the breakout success of Luxury Hits; albeit the duo, who are also an IRL couple, have the advantage of experience behind them with which to gloss their recordings in a sense of familiarity and confidence. While their last extended work bore the punchy synthpop bangers of its title – in particular, 'Playing as Punks' and 'Pushing Too Hard' were accessible and addictive live favourites – Extreme Dance Anthems is an amusingly leftfield expansion upon its own theme.

Three of the songs here bear a running time in excess of five minutes, and each – aside from perhaps the ambient mantra of second track 'Out of Body', seventy-five seconds which serves more as a bridge between the songs on either side of it than anything else – is at heart an electronic banger of the sort which might (and definitely should) be playlisted by Annie Mac on a Friday night. Yet the extent of Rodden and Cook's influences are tangible, and give the album depth as a listening experience in its own right, away from their inevitable deployment amid the pair's thrilling live set.

The opening 'The Inner Revolution' is possibly the least compelling of the full songs, although in its mantra-like journey through hints of squelchy Chicago house grooves, chiptune effects and a hint of Andrew Weatherall's trippier tracks on Primal Scream's Screamadelica, it's pretty far from a disappointment. In the already-released 'Bones', the urgency arrives; a hypnotic techno beat giving way to Rodden's reverberating vocal, incanting the words 'I live too much inside my head … one day we will all be dead / yet here we are alive instead'. It's not just the faux ritualistic video for the song which gives it a sense of folk horror mystery, albeit transplanted to the free party countryside around the M25 in the early 1990s.

'Skin on Skin' offers a weird kind of glossy chip-techno erotic vision – at least a little weirdness being part of the package when you buy Free Love – while the closing diptych of 'Everyone' and 'Everywhere' fuses into one epic nine-minute groove with Rodden's francophone vocals hovering overhead. For a selection of anthems, the immediacy is somewhat lacking here, but the depth of expressive texture and enjoyment in exploration we've come to expect from Free Love is all present.

Extreme Dance Anthems is out now on Optimo Music.

Free Love

Glasgow-based experimental duo made up of Suzanne Rodden and Lewis Cook, blending synthpop and disco.