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LP (12" album, 33 rpm)
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Liars have returned with their sixth studio album and follow-up
to 2010 s critically lauded Sisterworld. WIXIW was recorded in
LA and self-produced by the band with additional production
from Mute founder Daniel Miller and mixed by Tom Biller. The
band worked more collaboratively than on previous recordings
and began when frontman Angus Andrew and bassist Aaron
Hemphill moved into an isolated cabin in the mountains to
The album is simultaneously the most accessible and the most
challenging release from this iconoclastic band - it is both a
summation of Liars work up to now, and a complete break
from anything they have done previously.
As Angus jokes, If we aren t confusing people, it s not us. If
we aren t confusing ourselves with what we do, then we ve
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Some have said it's all textures rather than hits, and while I agree there are probably no hits, I think this overlooks the strong beats and melodies found throughout. It may not be a dance album, but it certainly lends itself to dance remixes.
Within the universe of smooth electronica, there is a fascinating diversity across the eleven tracks. One common element, though, is the falsetto crooning vocals. This is the one thing that doesn't always hit me quite right, but it does assist in creating the album's stylistic coherence.
I disagree with those who say this album is more adventurous and experimental than the last two. It may be adventurous for the Liars to tackle a type of music they haven't played before, but it doesn't sound all that radical to the listener, not if you've heard electronica over the years. In fact, I think this is the Liars' most accessible album.
WIXIW is not as abrasive as Liars (2007) or Sisterworld (2010), and I don't think it's a masterpiece on the level of Sisterworld (see my review). It's not as ambitious -- it's not really *about* anything, other than relationships. (WIXIW, it turns out, is pronounced "wish you.")
This is an album that sounds great, sets a mood, but not one that has Something To Say. I could give it four stars by comparison with Sisterworld, but that doesn't seem like the right point of comparison. Compared to most of the rest of what's out there today in pop/rock, it's a five star album without a doubt.
Liars is a group that is more concerned with creating interesting textures of sound rather than radio-ready hits. The group's previous catalog reflects a band that is conscious about each album's sound; constantly changing and tinkering with their sound, the group is known for drastic shifts in music between releases. WIXIW (pronounced "Wish You") is no exception as it finds the band changing direction once again. This time, the group has found themselves in a dark avant-garde electronic-dance experiment.
WIXIW sounds almost like a logical extension of Radiohead's KID A. The album is maintained by melancholy, haunting synthesizers and offbeat rhythms. Like past releases, the value of Liars' music lies in the depth of the album. Each play of the album will open and unlock previously unattended sounds, shifts, and textures; that's what they're made for. These albums are made to be poured over and explored. The discordant, atonal, and asynchronous touches of the album really pay off on repeated listens. The lead single, "No. 1 Against the Rush" isn't immediate, but it's a song that will stay with you long after its running time. "His and Mine Sensations," centers around a vocal line whose delivery is very much beautiful, dark, and a bit creepy; in a way, this line sums up the entire album. "Ring on Every Finger" centers around a very unconventional loop, but the song, centering around near-tribal percussion is unforgettable. Much of WIXIW is layered with dark samples and instrumentation, making this album less accessible to new listeners than previous releases. I will say though, that if you stick with this album, it will open up in really rewarding ways.
While the album does center much around the synth-heavy instrumentation, the band expands its sound from propulsive, rhythmic dance ("Brats,") to soundscaped ambiance that opens the album ("The Exact Colour of Doubt,") to the robotic flittering of closing track "Annual Moon Words." WIXIW is both consistent and exploratory; as soon as you think you have it pinned down, it changes. The first time I listened to WIXIW, it all kind of sounded the same, since the band largely sticks to the same instrumentation throughout the album -- what changes though, is how the band uses this instrumentation to create new and different sounds for each song.
Fans of the tone, mood, and timbre of Radiohead's KID A (or maybe even some of the electronic side of Brad Sucks) will have a lot to explore WIXIW. This album (like previous ones by Liars) proves a good listen for anyone interested in music from a more cerebral point-of-view. WIXIW can be dense and foreboding, but its nuance pays off in big ways if you stay with it. Recommended tracks for sampling: "No.1 Against the Rush," "His and Mine Sensations," and "Brats." Do yourself a favor and check out this album.
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