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The Independent Culture

(Big Chill)

Remember the old joke about the electronic dance act performing one of those MTV Unplugged sets? Well Instrumental have pulled off something similar - and I rather think they want to be taken seriously. Acoustek consists of cover versions of eight classic house, techno and ambient tracks, played - with a very live feel - by this talented string sextet (three violins, viola, cello and bass). For large parts of this album, Instrumental are a group of alchemical beauty and wonder. They find new charm in the melodies that the Orb overlaid with Ricky Lee Jones wittering on about "Little Fluffy Clouds"; they turn the sparse, staccato acid-techno of Plastikman's "Consume" into a menacing hybrid of the Jaws and Psycho soundtracks; and they transpose the Sabres of Paradise's "Smokebelch" on to an epic string soundscape. Elsewhere though, the tinkling coda of Orbital's "Forever" turns into horrible Riverdance-style folk. And we are occasionally reminded that, no matter how gifted Instrumental are, their instruments are simply not as versatile as an Apple Mac, sampler or Roland 303.