Radiophonic Workshop Rock

From the bowels of the BBC, Delia Derbyshire et al coaxed endearingly schlocky electronic sounds from rudimentary, homemade equipment. Twenty years after it started shuttering up for the final time, two bands are channelling a similar approach to very different conclusions.

Wild Beasts had honed their sound to a sleek, liquid funk that evoked imagery of bodily fluids on newly-falled snow, and candles beside bathtubs. Until they teased us with “Wanderlust“, a preview of the new manifesto that sits behind their forthcoming fourth album, Present Tense. Now, we have “Sweet Spot“, a gossamer-laced pop song interspersed with rusty, misbehaving synths that enter, decay and detune, and then depart like residual air from a leaking fire extinguisher. Initially, nothing sounds amiss: Ben Little’s guitar rings out and trembles, perhaps like a Johnny Marr castoff. Then, halfway through, the troubled electronics make their corrupted entrance. In its final quarter, the forlorn lead synth line sighs over a tapestry of tinkling, tender guitars, as if Daniel Lopatin himself was in the room.

Liars chose to explicitly experiment with synths and electronics on WIXIW, a creepy whisper of an album that burbled along intricate textures and patterns that were purportedly amateurish in their authorship. For its successor, Mess, the same ingredients are tortured and screwed with to more playful, deranged effect. On “Mess On A Mission“, they sound like they are jamming with Canada’s noted tinkerers Holy Fuck. The basic beat is simple enough, but overlaid with restless shuffles and clicks and rattles it is transformed into an animal let loose from the zoo. In the chorus, there are sudden blasts of pink noise that swell and plunge at random. The verses, meanwhile, are tracked to skitterish pulse and tones that drift in and out of phase. “We caught you at the seance, but only doubts appear”, intones Angus Andrew at the two-thirds mark; a deliciously dark observation for a deliciously dark revenant.

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