Personnel: Daisy Martey (vocals).
British sampledelia collective Noonday Underground are easily one of the most underrated bands to emerge from the country's trip-hop scene, although it might not entirely be accurate to lump their bright, swinging, colorful songs in with the brooding, sulking likes of Portishead and Tricky. Instead, their '60s-worshipping cut-and-paste numbers have a bit more in common with Japanese shibuya-kei acts such as Fantastic Plastic Machine, combined with the free-for-all spirit of the Avalanches. The main difference between the Australian collagists and Noonday Underground, of course, is the fact that Noonday have a dynamic singer, the simply amazing Daisy Martey, and they write proper, catchy songs. Arriving five years after 2010's The K-O Chorale (which, oddly enough, featured an Avalanches-like patchwork of sampled choral vocals rather than Daisy), Noonday returned not with a proper album, but with a lengthy collection of previously unreleased songs and instrumentals dating back to the late '90s, including material brewed up while Noonday founder Simon Dine was still a member of Adventures in Stereo. The album's first third features Martey, and it's squarely in the vein of the group's brilliant 2000 debut full-length Self-Assembly. Any of these songs could've fit perfectly on that album, especially the raucous "Faster Than the Fastest Thing" and irresistibly groovy "Sunbeam." The disc's second third is primarily instrumental, including "Smile for Me," an early Daisy-free version of the group's single "London," which really should've been a world-conquering pop hit. Even without vocals, the brief (generally two-minute) tracks still sound like proper songs that stand on their own, rather than just unfinished or abandoned demos. The collection's longest song, "Wolves at the Door," is a percussive journey, eventually cycling through vaguely spooky samples that point to the suspense hinted at with the song's title. The album's final third revisits Adventures in Stereo's self-titled 1997 album, with Dine reconfiguring instrumental bits into new Noonday tracks. It serves as a nifty flashback to the pre-laptop days when "indie electronic" meant Solex or Land of the Loops rather than internet-spawned genres like chillwave or witch-house. Self-Assembly is still the way to go for newcomers to the band, but for anyone who's already fallen under their spell, Body Parts for Modern Art is a must-listen. ~ Paul Simpson