A little trepidation with regards to Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs / Orlando Higginbottom’s debut album as a fully rounded collection is not unwarranted: partly because many of the tracks here are already familiar but also because hype tends to be a fickle beast, building up only to tear back down. Trouble comes in the wake of the clutch of EPs released on Joe Goddard’s Greco-Roman label, proving able to hold the reigns of a melodic house track (‘Garden’) as much as the bouncier side of electro (‘Household Goods’).
The inclusion of the already released tracks, most notably ‘Garden’, is no great surprise. With its easily digestible melodies, catchy synths and soulful guest vocals from Luisa Gerstein (from Lulu and the Lampshades) the track is a perfect inroad to the album for the less electronica inclined. Its longevity (it was initially released on the All In Two Sixty Dancehalls EP in 2010) speaks volumes of how far this album is going to go, both commercially and critically: after two years as his trademark song it is still gaining momentum, being used on high profile marketing campaigns and firmly lodged in any self-respecting electronica fans playlists.
While other tracks on the album aren’t as readily identifiable as hits, the quality remains high throughout. He drags elements of 90s garage and sun-kissed house through his sequencers without becoming derivative and churns out something new and coated with a modernist sheen. The drum beats lend themselves to a garage sound on opener ‘Promises’ and tracks such as ‘Shimmer’ and ‘Closer’ but the surrounding layers are most definitely rooted in the present. They match this meaty dance beat to some damp bass stabs and cascading synths – his influences ceasing to be a concern once the songs take off as they feel familiar in style but new in execution.
Initially it may feel strange to associate Higginbottom’s often sullen vocals with hands-in-the-air floor fillers. At times he seems to knowingly use his particular range to further the impact. ‘Your Love’, one of the album’s larger moments, belts through a chorus with a purely Balearic female vocal refrain only for his solemn timbre to provide the break before cresting neatly into the chorus, of sorts, again. It’s an observed contrast, and one that feels most definitely intentional.
While it can be argued that this is nothing daring or extremely forward-thinking he, in the very least, has created a viable platform to build upon and piqued the interest of the masses. As the Guy Called Gerald-alike ‘Stronger’ closes the album, it is the audio equivalent of a cliff-hanger that will have everyone chewing their nails in anticipation of where this, anything but extinct, dinosaur is going next.