Thursday, 16 August 2012
Liars - WIXIW added to 2012 Recommended Albums
I'm not quite sure what it was, but there was something off about a veteran dance-punk band that I had previously barely spent time with releasing what had reportedly been boiled down to an "elecronic record". Perhaps it had to do with the nature of the last few Liars records in particular. After the sprawling art-rock masterpiece that was 2006's Drums Not Dead (considered by many to be the band's magnum opus) the trio pared back their sound over their next two records Liars and Sisterworld. Which is a fine idea in principle, however the divided opinions of both those albums and obvious lack of adventure was enough to suggest that the party was rapidly reaching a close. Liars' seemed to have run dry. Next, an electronic record?
All the reports of the WIXIW sessions suggested that the album took nothing other than painstaking amounts of time and effort to create. Videos of the band in their recording space saw the trio at the absolute end of exhaustion. Even if they were partially or entirely acting, the sound of WIXIW itself is tense, brooding and claustrophobic; in short the exact result of a band using their previous experience to venture into unknown depths. It's one of those albums that can sound either entirely boring or utterly compelling depending on the mood it catches you in, made even more astonishing considering that it was mostly made up of instruments and software programs deliberately chosen by Liars because of their unfamiliarity and relative complexity.
WIXIW opens with "The Exact Colour Of Doubt". Angus Andrew sings beautifully to the listener that he'll always be their friend, his voice between methodic analogue synth. Next "Octagon" increases the pace significantly; tight drum machine patterns punching the way. Then we get to lead single "No. 1 Against The Rush", one of Liars' most accessible songs period and one of the few of WIXIW's to feature guitar. Andrew's vocal changes for a third time, now altenating between deeper verses and choruses that appear stretched in their note lengths. Despite its abillity to capture a singular mood the album shows Liars refusing to stay in one place, changing up not only from one track to the next but during individual moments. It never feels as though you're getting the same thing twice.
More than ever the influence of Radiohead looms over Liars; now not only in Angus Andrew's distinctive vocal style but in their approach to album craft. WIXIW could easily be seen as a Kid A moment for the band, as both capture a completely different angle of electronic music. Liars have not made a Caribou album. Instead they have dug out their own ground using Krautrock, early synthesizer music and the aforementioned Radiohead as shovels. And the buzzing bass textures of "Flood To Flood", the gorgeous layers of title track "WIXIW" and oddly 90s-reminiscent force of "Brats" show that this is something which the band have a clear knack for. WIXIW can be fun, serious, haunting and romantic; wiith Liars switching from straighforward to complex whenever the mood takes them. It knows that life is never black-and-white, and through the detail it displays it stands as an accurate testimony to one, long, deflating, inspiring recording process.