June 3, 2012

Album Review: Liars' WIXIW

Liars are the best band of the past decade, with perhaps Animal Collective being the only other band to give them a run for the money. There, I said it, and you're going to have a hard time convincing me otherwise. Over the course of six LPs that have flawlessly reinvented and transcended post-punk, noise rock and electronic music (sometimes all at once,) never has a band so effortlessly shape-shifted their style along the way. For their latest effort, the Los Angeles-by-way-of-Brooklyn trio have made it a mystery as to what new angles will appear in their sound. WIXIW (pronounced "Wish you") was recorded in various off-beat locations ranging from a cabin in the woods to a random building somewhere under L.A.'s 101 Freeway alongside once-well-kept-secret producer and Mute Records founder Daniel Miller. They reportedly used a multitude of new instruments and recording programs they've never worked with before to create the album they were consumed in for a solid year, and insist they have no idea how they'll perform these songs live since they can't remember how they wrote them. It goes without saying that WIXIW is unlike anything Liars have made before, but most surprisingly, it's also their most aesthetically likeable.

By definition, if you need one of those, WIXIW is an "electronic" album. Liars' signature percussive bombast and trashing cymbals that managed to inject even their more subtle albums such as Drum's Not Dead or Sisterworld with art rock chaos are almost entirely absent on this go, as are heavy-riffed guitars and any traces of their noise rock past. What's left are synthetic manipulations and Angus Andrew's vocals at the forefront undergoing an out-of-body experience after being freed from a harsher terrestrial environment. Cue the Radiohead Kid A and onward comparisons, but be prepared to admit you're way off mark by WIXIW's end. Where as their megastar alt-rock ex-tour mates have made a habit of mechanically inventing computer-age magic, Liars sound comfortably organic in their skin-shedding process without all the strings of expectation or self-aware innovation needling into it. The LP's 11 tracks are linearly conjoined by a minimalist seam of glowing atoms floating about ("The Exact Colour of Doubt," "His and Mine Sensation,") swelling in radius ("No.1 Against the Rush,") and particlized ("Octagon", "Flood to Flood") with even shorts breaks of acoustic textures ("Ill Valley Prodigies," "Annual Moon Words") emitting a soft-hued luminosity.

Until WIXIW came along, Liars' 2007 self-titled effort was the band's most direct attempt at winning over a wider audience, and to a certain extent it still is. The by-product of replacing their drum-centric formula with Pro Tools, synths and a renowned electronic music producer this time around however have unintentionally given the experimental avant rock band their least abrasive and sheenest makeover to date, which in turn should make their sixth LP a conversation starter for anyone watching cautiously from the sidelines. The only problem with this being that WIXIW shares few, if not, no overlap with Liars' past work. Yet, the mere fact that it's an innovative inconsistency within the trio's ongoing creative guessing game says just as much about their underrated legacy as it does their sound.

Liars' WIXIW will be released June 5, 2012 on Mute Records.

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