Skip to content

Album review: Cut Copy – Zonoscope

February 1, 2011

Orginally posted on The 405

Cut Copy_Zonoscope_2011 review

Label: Modular
Release date: 07/01/11
Link: Official Website
Buy: Amazon

I should start with something of a disclaimer; I completely fell in love with Cut Copy’s previous album, 2008’s In Ghost Colours, in the emphatic head-over-heels-queasy-in-the-stomach-serotonin-explosion kind of love. And like most good love stories all those formulaic clichés apply; it was an album that soundtracked that summer (and beyond), making new friends, falling in love, crumbling endings, new starts; it was an album I got drunk to, got high to, would listen to pre-going out, (occasionally during), certainly after going out into the small hours, on my lonesome and often in my own world traipsing in what felt like sun-drenched streets (though probably weren’t).

It was an album that contained a ‘Strange Nostalgia (For the Future’) even upon it’s release – and of course does even more so now, 3 years later. It personally opened up doors to new and exciting avenues of music. In short, it provided a backdrop to my then malleable little life, at a crucial time in it – though perhaps In Ghost Colours would have been special at any juncture.

This is a review for Zonoscope, don’t worry; I simply thought it necessary to highlight how perfect, and how much of a high-regard I personally held IGC in, and thus the battle I face with this review – though it’s time to move on. And thankfully, so have Cut Copy…

For Zonoscope is not wholly in the In Ghost Colours spectrum. Recorded in an abandoned warehouse in the outskirts of their native Melbourne, the now foursome had a free reign to fiery experiment to their hearts content, and in their own timeframe. A ‘teaser’ track was released in the summer, ‘Where I’m Going’, which suggested a more subdued, less overtly electro-rock direction. Arguably… underwhelming too. However this has proved to be somewhat of a red herring, read on…

Opener ‘Need You Now’ is a much better indication and it’s everything you’d want an electro-pop opener to be. It starts with simple, light synths and drumbeat, then slowly builds in the classic build-and release club manner as Dan Whitfords voice goes through the octaves before eventually unleashing a gush of emotion. The peak isn’t even reached until 4 minutes 44 seconds, though hugely rewarding it is. Carefully crafted dance at it’s finest.

Photobucket

The trademark synths that shimmer ever-so make a return in the chorus for ‘Take Me Over’, though in between we’re introduced to something that is something of a feature throughout Zonoscope; that is a more rhythmic, tribal sound that drives the track along, with the odd bongo/tom-tom sounding drums thrown-in post chorus – even taking centre stage to announce this direction openly. Also hello bass line, Fleetwood Mac much?

‘Pharaohs & Pyramids’ proves equally as rhythmic, and echoes fellow antipodeans Men at Work in this respect. See also: ‘Blink and You’ll Miss It’. Though the key to ‘Pharaohs & Pyramids’ is the 180-on-a-sixpence it does exactly halfway through, as the track strips-down to its bones, transforms and builds again remarkably swiftly, before hitting a crescendo in a super-gratifying climax of electro cacophony. Perhaps the twangly guitar solo at the end could have been annexed, echoing the end of ‘Hearts On Fire’ – a bit too much in fact. They really needn’t rely on that with their other strengths visible.

One of the signatures of In Ghost Colours was the “interlude” tracks (though to call them that is a severe disservice) that acted as a brilliant cohesion, no doubt under the guise of producer Tim Goldsworthy as their mutual love for My Bloody Valentine blossomed. Zonoscope features just one of these in the gorgeous, glimmering ‘Strange Nostalgia for the Future’ at the mid-point of the album (though most of the tracks do bleed into each other smoothly), that helps break the flow and slow the pace. It also acts as an apt precursor for ‘This Is All We’ve Got’, which on first listen almost goes unnoticed.

It’s the arguably least electronic track as Cut Copy make it a smartly-thought shoegaze double (a pair of shoes?), awash with hazy guitar feedback and layered gentle noise of the ethereal M83 variety. It’s really quite striking, as Whitford voice aches as he smashes through the stratosphere with the high-notes halfway through – yet again, the track developing into something else late-on, reminiscent of the Bowie era of Station to Station. Maybe Young Americans is a better comparison. And that’s the album, restless and frequently breathless, a busy and bold mess.

Now, the final track, ‘Sun God’. well, Jesus wept it’s something. It’s a behemoth of a track, a brilliant beast at over 15 throbbing minutes long and nothing like Cut Copy have released to date; though fans of the Cutters will not be wholly surprised that this is what they’re capable of.

From the moment it starts with the first dark synth and heavy four-to-the-floor dancefloor drumbeat, you know that this could be something pretty special. It’s something you’d expect on a particularly outlandish DFA release, whilst mixing in various minimal elements along the way as the track meanders through a euphoric journey full of electronic samples and surprises.

We’re outside the realms of electro-pop, this is rave territory now people. “You’ve got to live/you’ve got to die/So what’s the purpose/Of you and I” Whitford repeats anthemically over and over, not long before the vocals cease and we’re treated to a further 10 minutes of an epic instrumental. What an experience this could be live. It’s like a supreme Cut Copy remix of a Cut Copy track.

The clever thing about ‘Sun God’ is that by ending on such a high, it helps to forget that the album actually isn’t perfect, with a couple of tracks becoming slightly lost towards the end. The sonic dynamic and rhythmic, hypnotic Brian Eno-esque atmosphere created is commendable and frequently brilliant, though subsequently we’re short a few of the unmistakable pop anthems of what we’ve been spoiled by.

Zonoscope is an ambitious, broad-minded feel-good affair that’s got it’s heart set in 70’s classic pop alongside the more obvious electronic qualities of the 80’s, with its organic processes reacting joyfully against its mechanical bête noire. And boy does it throw in some memorable electro-pop classics on the way. The thing is with love, the first time is always the best and holds the fondest memories; but don’t disregard your new love. It’s here before your very eyes, so turn it up, belt out the choruses at the top of your voice and enjoy it for the synth-shined electro beauty that it is. And enjoy you will.

Photobucket

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: