Williamsburg dreampop trio Au Revoir Simone have been a bit on the quiet side since 2009′s Still Night, Still Light. Four years on, and many TV spots later – including an advert for Cheerios – the three keyboard warriors undertake a fresh journey, in the form of their fourth full-length record, Move In Spectrums. The threesome have garnered renown for their screwy alt. pop, puppeteer dominance over Korgs, Moogs and Rolands, and dazzling, matted vocal harmonies. However, there’s been a notable deviation from their norm on the new sacrifice they place upon the altar.
Lead singles ‘Somebody Who’ and ‘Crazy’ have already provided an enticing snapshot of their stylistic direction; working with Violens Jorge Elbrecht has aided in luring out a panorama of aural hors d’eouvres and fresh tonal shades. The former is dawns with tropical ’80s congas (think Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’); indeed, the cut is a mishmash of new wave pop and shimmering lagoon synths, fresh from the Florida Keys. It’s slice of summer arriving slightly too late – a few months earlier and this could’ve been a driving-with-the-windows down belter. ‘Crazy’, the other teaser, is more like synth-rock. Chunky, booming drums tango with chugging bass and needlepoint axe riffs forced through a pedalboard-blender – it’s a nice variation on a theme, but the standout element is the dismissive harmonic hook of “Ooh, you girls, you drive me crazy…”
But these tracks aren’t representative of the entirety of Move In Spectrums. Tracks like ‘We Both Know’ break their kooky electro-pop mould which normally bursts with woozy neo-psych padscapes. Instead, we’ve got a shuffling aquatic broth, kind of like a post-rock version of Bambi‘s ‘Little April Shower’ – it’s a swaying salmagundi, born from the oceans. Others, like ‘Boiling Point’ are distorted muffled-static electronica enveloped in pangs of Grimes’ signature swirling textures. ‘The Lead Is Galloping’ whirs and chirrups like a robotic budgie. There’s a focal tribal throb – think Kate Boy – and the result is a kind of rave-noir cut.
However, it’s not all brilliant news. Sometimes, while the group are swimming in textural sandboxes or soundscapes summoned by synths, things get a bit a lost. There’s a tendency to take too long to smell the roses, often dawdling in an unoffensive brew. It’s all very pleasant, but lacks the bite they proffer on cuts like ‘Crazy’ or ‘The Lead Is Galloping’. Instead it’s a dazed, lollygagging free-for-all struggling to find a means to the finish line; that may well be the point of their chosen genre, and yes, it’s super chilled, but when juxtaposed against the snap and crackle of other more bombastic efforts.
On the whole, Au Revoir Simone’s almost-but-not-quite-a comeback record is pretty rad. The tracks that stand out require forceps to be removed from your gooey cranial filling, and the sheer calibre of the dancefloor-poised pop nuggets is impressive. There’s a couple of minor stumbles, and it has a knack for dithering, but when it comes together, it really, really comes together.