Given his past work in the dark and moody drum and bass/jungle territory, I think that a lot of people are going to wonder just what the hell is up with Aural and Hearty. Not only is it very rarely even going into the drum and bass territory (instead seeming to have opted for a French disco house sound), but it's an upbeat totally party album with one foot in Fatboy Slim territory and another in even more mainstream fare. In fact, after putting it on and letting the first few songs go for awhile, I was actually wondering whether the CD had been mispressed or not.
I guess I should have expected something a little different, though, just judging by the cover art alone (sometimes a very bad judge, but fairly correct more often than you'd think). Instead of the darker, more atmospheric covers that he had on releases like Mixed Emotional Features, the cover to this disc is all white and has Adam Dorn sitting in a loungy leather chair while wearing a yellow jumpsuit of some sort and sitting in front of a hovering turntable. He's done a 180 in sound and appearence really, and while I can totally understand how he'd want to do something different, I'd be a lot more excited if he'd pulled things off without sounding like such a cheeseball. One of the things that made the Mocean Worker music of old so good is that you could tell that Dorn was versed in the music that he borrowed elements from. He's studied jazz and even compiled a release of it a long while ago (even before his Home Movies From The Brainforest release) and much of the instrumentation used on his last discs was played rather than ripped from other records.
I don't mean to keep going on about things, so I'll stop right now and talk about the music on this release. When I mentioned that this new album was in party mode, I wasn't lying at all. After the half-minute intro track that really doesn't add anything to the proceedings, the first real track starts with "Hey Baby." With a pumped-up old school sounding beat and various samples of the title repeated ad infinitum (while sometimes being layered over pseudo r+b female vocals), it's nothing that's not been done before. "Air Suspension" is a more standard dance track with a slamming beat and a wanky bass (as well as some pretty much unrecognizable vocals by Bono), but again it just doesn't do a whole lot that's very interesting.
"Tres Tres Chic" continues the theme of blending the lite music beats with vocals (this time ala French in hopes of possibly pulling some of the Dmitri From Paris crowd) and all kinds of flutes and silly keyboards. It's techno for the Austin Powers crowd. Semi-hip but pretty much hollow. There are some fairly redeemable tracks on the disc, like the slamming "IntoThinAir" with it's super fat analogue keyboard gurgle (which is then used about 3 more times over the course of the rest of the disc) and more subtle sounds while "Velvet Black Sky" sounds like creepy lounge by Tipsy with it's progressing upright bass sample and disembodied piano sample.
I guess the thing that frustrates me the most about the disc is that while there can be party techno albums released any time, this one sort of feels like it's coming on the heels of the Fatboys and Daft Punks when Dorn has been so damn innovative earlier on. I've got to give him props for trying something completely different than he usually does, but it just feels sort of tossed off to me unfortunately. If you're looking for the old Mocean Worker, he's not to be found here, but if you're looking for some very mainstream sounding party beats, this one might do.