A dread-filled visit to the dental or doctor’s surgery this is not. Seattle’s Jeff McIlwain marks the moment where his name is called again with steady electronics and deep club determiners, within the general handling of similar but divergent electro DNA. Its disparate inserts are obvious; the way it hangs together just as much, becoming frontline relevant from whichever angle it’s travelling from.
Exclusively electronic doesn’t make for a virtual world of polygon windows, regardless of “Stratus” stepping into a dodecahedron-shaped rash of looped synths. Lusine’s angles of cosmic disco represent the challenge of the album, attempting and usually succeeding in gathering degrees of emotion (not even to humanise particularly) from the angular and steadfastly mechanical or artificial. “On Telegraph” hypnotically moves in no direction in particular, and “February” is sure to be big once the weather is more charitable.
Standing next to more image-conscious electro-pop (“Get The Message”), Lusine’s methods fiddle with differing strands running hot and cold at the same time, juggling processed vocals made distant (“Another Tomorrow,” a love song handled by robots) with balmy synth provisions. The variations continue with “First Call” coming off as a sneakily slick Hot Chip effort with more plug-ins and jerks of machinery. For an album that’s not especially light, it is served well by a double definition of flexibility.
File under: Vector Lovers, Woolfy vs Projections, John Tejada
Matthew Dear’s evolution continues, now settling into a midlife shuffle that marks the point where 2003’s Leave Luck to Heaven and fifth album Beams have very little in common. The vocal style that he’s allowed to seep through record by record now takes center stage, its leftfield pop aspiration sort of hanging off beats with a languid keeping of distance, using a kind of Beck-meets-Davids Byrne/Bowie gabble. Dear’s persona is now either too cool for everything, or not cool enough for anything, veiling happiness in a saddened slouch, with low-spirited charm (“Do the Right Thing”) or droning frustration (“Shake Me”).
An eponymous dedication to Detroit-schooled house and techno has now progressed into sounds nagging at the mainstream through plenty of 80s references (the infectious, even if you don’t know why, “Fighting is Futile” and the showy DIY funk “Up & Out”), while simultaneously sounding as if they want nothing to do with any particular scene (rebel without a cause “Earthforms,” electro burrower “Overtime”). It does leave fans in a quandary: embrace the changes or bemusedly wonder what’s going on.
May this review be so bold as to say if Dear’s original sound first rapt you, you don’t necessarily need this in your collection. For first-timers, everything sounds very well drilled as if this were Dear’s signature, skippered by a character that’ll take many listens to make sense of. A dream topic for message board arguers, that’s for sure. File under: Tiga, Audion, Talking Heads