It’s been almost three years since Cut Copy released their critically lauded sophomore album. A vibrant, synth driven pop record, In Ghost Colours saw the Australian quartet depart from the self-consciousness of new rave and the pastiche of previous efforts. Infectiously merging seemingly incompatible influences, their last full length held a confidence rarely afforded to that stereotypically difficult second album. Perhaps that is where Zonoscope comes in, not that it is by any means a bad record – just a difficult one.
Urgent, brash and brilliantly bold album opener ‘Need You Now’ is a relentlessly swelling club inspired number that immediately embraces a clear-cut dance-pop soundscape. Building with every second that passes, the track’s minimal industrial bass is gradually punctuated by shimmering tambourine zils, delicate falling synths, handclaps and the low, brooding, hollow vocals of singer Dan Whitford. The overwhelmingly 80s inspired harmony is mesmerising, despite the fact it is hardly an excursion into unfamiliar territory for the band, or a refreshingly original take on the ubiquitous presence that particular decade has had of late.
Picking things up from where they left off back in 2008 whilst cautiously exploring new musical avenues, the quintessentially indie guitar hook of next track ‘Take Me Over’ offer up some variety. Not dissimilar to Yeasayer’s relaxed sun-soaked rhythms, the sweeping synths twist around bubbling percussive pops and a slightly listless vocal refrain. Recent single ‘Where I’m Going’ moves the album a fair distance from where it began: the anthemic indie cries of “oooh” and “yeah” soaring over a compelling, hazy and almost psychedelic beat.
As the album evolves, each track plays with a slightly different aesthetic: moving from the harsh, tribal ambience of ‘Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution’ to the soft, moaning timbres of ‘Strange Nostalgia For The Future’ and the bluesy hues of ‘Alisa’. Richly textured and complexly layered, Zonoscope’s progression is at times awkward and stuttering; the indie-pop of ‘Where I’m Going’ doing little to compliment the minimal techno beats of following track ‘Pharaohs and Pyramids.’ The influences that so were effortlessly blended in In Ghost Colours find themselves a little more disparate, while the album finds itself loosely and occasionally clumsily held together by its trance-pop experimentations. All that withstanding, there are some beautiful harmonious elements as the futuristic keys that populate the sparse instrumentation of ‘Strange Nostalgia For The Future’ find themselves ushering in following song ‘This Is All We’ve Got.’
Often losing itself in over familiarity or entirely too discordant variety Zonoscope is most definitely a difficult album at first, despite the fact that many songs therein are undeniably fantastic synth-pop numbers. But with time and patience, the record gradually reveals itself as a whole: timidly reworking the sounds of Cut Copy’s previous oeuvre whilst exploring the musical spectrum from dance, trance and techno to guitar drenched indie-pop.