House Of Binary

The bona fide 'songs' glow with accomplishment.

Lo-fi electronica can go either of two ways. One is primary coloured: a Lego-built version of music filled with toy instruments, retro stylings and Casio tones with pre-sets jammed on ‘perky’. The other is not like that at all. It’s good.

Pete Astor‘s The Wisdom Of Harry still shares the skip-diving mentality and rudimentary resources of the first tendency. But ‘House Of Binary’ – the first TWOH album proper – is set squarely in the latter camp, shrouded in mists of analogue nostalgia rather than tweeness, watched over by moody gargoyles; every nook and cranny hiding a dusty, rather than a candied, prize.

Astor‘s come a long way since his ’80s days making tumbleweed-strewn guitar pop for the Creation label, and a long way again since his TWOH reincarnation released ‘The Stars Of Super 8’, a compilation of home studio tinkering, the other year. TWOH have made the leap from his own Faux-Lux label to Matador. And their tunes have convincingly shrugged off the dandruff of DIY amateurism; Wisdom‘s debt to film noir soundtracks now offset by Astor‘s own burgeoning musicality.

So cinematic tracks like ‘Disco C’ don’t just humbly toy with beats: they percolate with dancefloor-savvy programming and loops. ‘Unit One’, meanwhile, does lo-tronic jazz with a twinkle in its eye and a wah-wah pedal to hand, easily dodging the bearpits of retro clichi. And even when Harry’s darker instincts dominate, as they often do, the result is unique – ‘Woke Up Buzzing’ boasting dub glitches and spirit rapping instead of mere trip hop atmospheres.

The bona fide ‘songs’, too, glow with accomplishment. ‘Coney Island Of Your Mind’, particularly, performs an electro-Beta Band shuffle that’s as scruffy and low-slung as it is innovative. ‘I’m Going To Make My Life Right’, meanwhile, is one of few unshuttered and sun-dappled corners of Astor‘s pile, its fragile hope and hobbled percussion recalling Sparklehorse at his most tender. The palace of Wisdom: you really would want to live there.