LONDON, UK (Top40 Charts/ Cicada Official Website) - 'We were flying back from Russia in this cranky Tupelov plane,' recalls Alex Payne explaining how Cicada came up with the title 'Roulette' for their new album, 'We joked that it would be Russian roulette whether we made it home or not. Then we started thinking how the music business is a roulette wheel and Cicada are small operators gambling against the house - but winning so far...'
He's right, Cicada are on a roll. 'Roulette' is a follow-up that kicks. With songs such as the driving Moroder-esque disco throb of 'Falling Rockets' or the pulsating bassline power of 'Don't Stare At The Sun', Cicada deserve to dramatically increase their armada of devoted fans.
Their self-titled debut album sold in droves in 2006 and topped online polls without significant marketing from the group's tiny Critical Mass label. It was a genuine word of mouth success. However, where that album was awash with delicious Balearic grooves 'Roulette' ups the energy levels to an irresistible dancefloor buzz.
Cicada began life as London club-heads Alex Payne and Aaron Gilbert's successful production team, remixing Depeche Mode, New Order and many others, but they wanted more, they wanted to return to the band ethic and build a project that reflected their love of rock and pop as well as dance. They started creating tracks but needed a vocalist.
'We didn't want diva-ish vocals,' explains Aaron, 'We wanted someone with an interesting voice who didn't just belt it out.'
After an extensive search they found Heidrun Bjornsdottir, who'd previously sung with Icelandic housers Gus Gus and Liverpool rockers Gloss. She fitted in perfectly and, with their first album rousing interest and receiving positive reviews, Cicada were suddenly in demand for gigs. Initially wary, the trio added drummer Duncan 'Pixie' Mills for shows and before they knew it they were gigging across the globe.
'We didn't want to be U2 in a month,' says Alex, 'but we gained confidence, made live instruments fit with phat analogue, and played this fantastic festival called Good Vibes in Australia. We thought we'd be stuffed in a tent in the corner but the promoters said, 'We absolutely adore the album, do you mind going on the main stage before The Beastie Boys and Snoop Dogg'.'
Playing to 20,000 Aussies going mental was nerve-wracking but exhilarating, and over the next year and a half they gigged solidly, playing crowd-slaying sets at two consecutive Glastonburys. They loved it and wanted to make an album that reflected the live experience, a new set that took the roof off.
'Performing is the part I like best,' agrees Heidrun, 'It's where I really have fun and the crowd always have fun with me.'
'Roulette', then, explodes with dancefloor attitude but it's also pop. Pop? Yes, pop with attitude and cheeky underground pizzazz. Cicada know pop music can mean anything from the Faithless to U2 via Frankie Knuckles and Maximo Park. 'Roulette' appears just as proper pop is being rediscoveredby sites such as Popjustice and Wonkypop, a whole movement devoted to recognizing when pop music is glorious and reclaiming it from TV talent shows such as 'The X Factor'. It suits Cicada down to the ground.
'Pop isn't a dirty word,' they reckon, 'From Saint Etienne to Santogold, it's possible to do it credibly, we're not techno DJs from Berlin, we're just trying to make an album that, if someone finds it on their shelf and plays it in five years time, they can still enjoy the songs.'
To this end 'Roulette' springs all manner of surprises on the listener. Heidrun helms most of the vocals, notably on the first single 'Metropolis', a gem that comes on like Tiga's finest electroclash given a sparkling 2009 update, and features tasty mixes from Charlie Fanclub and Twelves. Elsewhere guest vocalists make appearances. Bjorn Synneby of Swedish bands Pacific! and The Whyte Seeds, sings on the contagious Empire Of The Sun-esque 'Talking', leading to questions about whether Cicada have a thing for Nordic vocalists.
'I never thought of that,' Alex laughs, 'but I've never been mad for raucous rock vocals in dance, or anything indie or overwrought, whereas I love soulful vocals with froideur, a little bit of melancholy.'
The other guest vocalist, Tom Smith from The Editors, fits this description brilliantly. Cicada remixed The Editors a couple of times and the rock band loved their work but no-one could have predicted a new collaboration would work as effectively as the song 'Executive', one of the album's most memorable moments, akin to the Talking Heads majestically produced by William Orbit.
Perhaps the centrepiece, however, is 'One Beat Away', a contagious indie-dance stomper riding a bassline Peter Hook would be proud of, a song so immediate it's become a call and response ritual at Cicada gigs. It's a dancefloor detonator that ebulliently sums up Cicada's intention to create music with one foot on the dancefloors of Ibiza and one down the front at Britain's most rockin' festivals, territories that collide euphorically on their smashing new album.
Yes, 'Roulette' has arrived and it's time to spin the wheel...
Cicada 'Metropolis' single out 25th May, 2009, album 'Roulette' out 15th June.