To hear Angus Andrew discuss the ungoverned maelstrom of Liars’ career – whereby a bunch of ‘00s NYC funk-punks turned to witch rock, then to various forms of experimental electronica and dance via a myriad of diversions along the way – you’d start believing it has its own perfect physics; an imperceptible molecular order, a post-rock M Theory where the chaos make sense.
His discarding of each songwriting process after every album to seek out a new one has sent the band ricocheting between styles and genres, eliminating predictability and cohesion. Andrew, however, has described his trajectory as a “spiral” allowing him, come this 10 album, to peer back on his own vapour trail.
The band certainly seems to have its own gravity. As key members have jettisoned – drummer Julian Gross in 2014, guitarist Aaron Hemphill in 2017 – Liars collapsed in on itself; the band’s last two albums ‘TFCF’ (2017) and ‘Titles With The Word Fountain’ (2018) were the work of Andrews alone, pictured on the sleeves as a jilted bride and using samples and found sounds from around his secluded Sydney studio. Here Liars’ core expands again, with Andrews recruiting avant-garde jazz drummer Laurence Pike, multi-instrumentalist Cameron Deyell and, on lyrical duties, his wife Mary Pearson Andrew. Somewhere between live band and laptop, Liars’ most refined and accessible album has emerged.
Ever since Kraftwerk patented their first-gen Man-Machine back in 1978, rock’s finest bio-technicians have been working to perfect the balance between flesh and flash drive, and it’s on records like this that breakthroughs are made. Opener ‘The Start’ is a distorted industrial grind with a heavy humanoid heart; the sort of space-age misery that a Bezos or Branson might feel chasing a zero gravity Bucks Fizz around a five billion dollar dildo for four minutes.
Climactic centrepiece ‘Star Search’, where Andrews revisits the atmospheric menace of 2004’s ‘They Were Wrong, So We Drowned’ through the prism of his electronic era, sounds like nothing so much as a collision of deep-space moons, reflecting some equally momentous calamity of the inner universe.
The spectre of Radiohead looms large over such albums – particularly in the skitter and glide of cavern rocker ‘Big Appetite’ and the way ‘From What The Never Was’ builds from gentle spacewalk to cinematic music of the spheres. Crucially, though, Andrews keeps hook-lines at the heart of the record, anchoring music that might otherwise drift out of orbit. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke: science, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic.
Release date: August 6
Record label: Mute Records