First Unknown Mortal Orchestra, then Tame Impala, and now New Zealand-via-Hawaii newcomers Silicon. The newfound thirst for electronic soul-funk moves amongst antipodean music-makers is so notable you half wonder whether local air supplies had been enriched with disco particles.
If aspects of Personal Computer bring to mind Unknown Mortal Orchestra's melancholy mechano-funk opus Multi-Love, the reason may be genetic. Kody Nielson, the songwriter, producer and singer lurking behind the Silicon brand, is the younger brother of UMO mastermind Ruban Nielson, so certain similarities in the falsetto-frequenting vocal style and retro-futuristic soundscaping may be expected. Personal Computer, however, has an operating system all of its own.
The name Nielson’s picked for his operation is certainly apt. With echoes of the seminal early works of Kraftwerk, an interest in developing technology permeates both the lyrical themes (the propulsive yet haunting title track's tackles the alienating potential of electronic communications) and the robotically funky musical templates that combine analogue and digital with results that occasionally bring to mind 80’s vintage Prince with an advanced degree in Computing; when a humble melodica makes a cameo on the futuristic dub of "Dope", it seems like a visitor from the prehistoric era.
At their best, the restlessly bubbling results are truly arresting. The downbeat synthetic soul of "God Emoji" mopes with a resistance-battering efficiency that suggests a robot whose emotion card has been set permanently on 'blue'; the insanely infectious "Burning Sugar" resembles a 70's synth-heavy solo Stevie Wonder workout ala "Higher Ground" transported to some unspecified spot in the future of funk. The all-too-brief hyper-activity of "Little Dancing Baby" - totally charming or dangerously irritating, depending on the listener's mood - is like a light-hearted, day-glo splattered younger relation of Gorillaz's "Dirty Harry".
Had the rest of Personal Computer been of this caliber, we'd be applauding a masterpiece. Yet although it lasts barely half an hour, it feels as if the album doesn't quite cohere into a convincing whole, and that the first half's captivating energy is lost amidst one too many hazy, half-formed slow jams later on. Even so, a hugely promising debut.