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Last Night On The Planet Aaron Drain , December 20th, 2016 11:03

You’d be forgiven for wondering just what exactly Letherette have been exposed to in that studio of theirs, given that Last Night On The Planet is only their second actual LP release in six years – a recording career that, to the contrary, has seen them drop as much black wax as a tipsy merchandiser at a Sisters of Mercy gig. In fact, this latest effort from the Wolverhampton duo is the third offering to emerge from their encampment this year alone. Though, therein lies the rub. Content with regularly putting out 12”s, EPs, and the occasional rarity, they’ve never really been proponents of the long player; opting instead to produce and release sonic vignettes showcasing a variety of styles, sounds, and experiments – the good, the great, and occasionally, the weird. It’s no surprise then that Last Night On The Planet has found residence with Ninja Tune.

Eclectic excursions and genre segues aside, the tracks making up Last Night On The Planet fall somewhere in between Letherette’s debut and the more readily accessible dance music they’ve fostered a penchant for recently. Indeed, much of the wider appeal they’ve harnessed over the past year or so has been a product of the focused, dance-floor ready cuts explored on Refresh and EP3, despite being a production force so rooted in pushing the boundaries of how electronica interprets hip hop. For a sophomore LP, Last Night On The Planet doesn’t do much in the way of realising any grandiose ambitions, but what it lacks in inventiveness, it more than makes up for in resourcefulness.

It’s that strong sense of diversity running through the Letherette back catalogue that permeates Last Night On The Planet; that snakes and ladders approach that has historically resulted in Richard Roberts and Andrew Harber landing on the well-trodden ground of silky cuts featuring analogue wavelengths and rhythmic sampling. ‘Shanel’, as an example, compounds much of what we’ve heard from them since 2010, but does so in a way that reiterates rather than overreach and flounder against the canon – it’s an arrangement constructed with a bit of everything the duo have ever turned their hands to. ‘Rich and Dan’, similar in execution, reaches dizzying atmospheric heights but doesn't exceed the limits of its ambitions – harking back to that invariably odd, glistening jumble of sounds conceived of at the beginning of the Letherette saga, relishing in a symbiosis of the chaotic and calm.

An album of amalgamation, rather than a tiresome overlapping of distinct motifs, Last Night On The Planet reveals itself via a synthesis of insouciant tones and informal timbres – ‘Wootera’ and ‘Bad Sign’ may well linger in inoffensive territory, but there’s enough clout outside of the safety of convention to merit the addition of two bonafide hip hop tracks to open and close the record. The former, ‘Momma’, featuring rising Dublin rapper Rejjie Snow is arguably more indicative of his talent than that of the track’s engineers, but it’s promising to catch a glimpse of Letherette strafing beyond the regular. The latter – the album’s title track – employs the nascent talent of Pyramid Vritra and seems a much more fitting marriage when the Stones Throw parallels at play are considered.

Although Last Night On The Planet isn’t likely to find itself on any end of year lists, it’s a welcome addition to the Letherette oeuvre, despite being intermittently overwrought with retrospect. At its best, it’s a collection that solidifies a tried and tested formula, with a few additional measures of the unexpected thrown in for the sake of trial and error. At its worst, there’s something of a longing here for Roberts and Harber to get back behind the cumbersome wheel of reinvention and push it forward again, though if the glimmers of unrealised potential that nuance Last Night On The Planet are polished and refined, editors in 2017 might just find themselves looking back and celebrating something special as the year comes to its clo