It’s five years since Belfast’s Not Squares’ debut ‘Yeah OK’ released the bees and swayed around the asylum with a swaggering mix of bass, synthetic rhythms and choppy guitar licks in a way that made you stop, listen, and dance. For a while, it looked like they would lay claim to the throne of Irish electronica but then the music stopped coming; Le Galaxie exploded a popularity bomb over Ireland and Not Squares disappeared from the public’s consciousness.
‘Bolts’ aims to re-establish Not Squares’ place at the retro electro top-table thanks to its assortment of hook laden instrumental electro and indie dancefloor fillers. Comeback single Oops Say Hi proves those five years have not been squandered, mixing a funky bass groove and blissed out summer dance-party vibes with an earworm refrain.
Four of ‘Bolts’ ten songs are named after motorways, but it’s not apparent whether they refer to the motorways of Not Squares’ native Northern Ireland or are inspired by their semi-migration to the UK. Either way they’ll keep you wide-awake on your journey and act as the perfect segue between songs, with M4 and Fall Far being prime examples of how merging instrumentals and songs proper works so well on ‘Bolts’. M4 sporadically hints at what is to come in Fall Far without diluting the impact of the song, which switches between a Daft Punk-esque shakedown of vocoder and space synth and Friendly Fires leaning percussive indie disco verses.
Simpler Vibe perhaps contains too much audio dairy to handle, pushing the retro electro vibe to the outer limits of guilty pleasure with house piano stabs, but Hey You is sure to enchant indie disco halls at 2am with its ‘90s drumbeats and throaty keyboard lines.
While far from perfect, ‘Bolts’ marks a welcome return to the Irish dance scene for Not Squares. Let’s not leave it another five years though.