Veteran rock weirdoes Liars go electronic and end up releasing an otherwordly, abstract masterpiece.
Imagine a situation where a musical group manages to shock and awe by avoiding the characteristic morbid, psychotic tone they have delivered for years. Transforming from a dark funk punk band to an even more perverted pagan, tribal art rock group, Liars have always made creative music that sidestepped immediacy for a more disturbed, edgy appeal. Music for freaks—I suppose—who find things dauntingly macabre to be oddly inviting. With WIXIW, however, this creepy attitude is toned down and replaced with a more meditative, petulant mood. And the result is an album that is both immediately welcoming and vastly intriguing.
The brilliance of WIXIW comes from its approach to creating its electronic soundscapes. Because Liars are new to electronic music, they went into the project with the mindset of a rock band rather than a seasoned producer. As a result, unique electronic textures are complemented by rock instrumentation that highlights sections without overloading them. Opener “The Exact Colour of Doubt” is simply heavenly in its ambient washes combined with delicate guitar pluckings. The nervously up-tempo “Octagon” finds lead singer Angus Andrew droning atop layered bleeps and bloops. Lead single “No. 1 Against the Rush” stays grounded with a stable bass line as morphing electronics bend, billow, and bloom. Title track and standout “WIXIW” uses tom-tom percussion and metallic synths to create a warped atmosphere. Electric guitars and springy electronic beats on “Flood to Flood” feel simultaneously groovy and sinister. And closer “Annual Moon Words” is a folk song painted with fleeting electronic twangs that seem cathartic and reflective at the same time. On every song there is some combination of organic and synthetic sounds that lends the album an ethereal soundscape typical of much electronic music with the melodic sensibility of an alternative rock outfit.
As a result of this dynamic, WIXIW is Liars’ Kid A. Kid A diverted Aphex Twin styling with jazz-fusion and Radiohead’s unique brand of space rock to create a jarring and paranoid amalgam of sound. WIXIW combines Liars’ tribal rock ideology with evocations of Eno ambience and, um, Throbbing Gristle industrial. Yet, the result is that WIXIW sheds Liars’ typical madness and reveals an ominous yet contemplative side to the group’s sound. The electronics may dull the edge from the album, however the result is a cerebral piece of art that occupies a unique space in the world of electronic rock. It is the sort of album that comes from seemingly nowhere and stands alone outside of contemporary trends or influence. In other words, it is the timeless classic that every serious musical group hopes to one-day make.
WIXIW is released on June 4th on Mute Records.