Place has long been integral to Liars' music. From the band’s origins in New York's early ‘00s dance punk scene and ‘They Were Wrong, So We Drowned's Germanic occultism to the violent paranoia of Los Angeles explored on ‘Sisterworld’, location has often tangibly seeped into their albums.
‘Theme From Crying Fountain’ takes this to its natural conclusion. A couple of years ago singer Angus Andrew returned to his native Australia and set up home in a remote national park only accessible by boat. While piecing together the tracks that would become the latest Liars LP, he set up microphones outside his studio, methodically recording the sounds of the bush and weaving them into the patchwork of instrumental recordings he was carefully assembling from sessions in LA.
The result is an album that's both musically expansive and often claustrophobically personal. Liars records have rarely sounded of a piece, but this is by some way the most idiosyncratic album released under the name yet. That's perhaps understandable given that, in the studio at least, Liars is now a solo project, with collaborator Aaron Hemphill having amicably departed. ‘TCFC’ feels singular, the product of a specific and wonky musical imagination now free to explore whatever the hell he wants.
Hence the dank, mechanistic synths of ‘Staring At Zero’ veering into the gently pretty acoustic ballad ‘No Help Pamphlet’ followed by the rumbling ambience of ‘Face To Face With My Face’, or the minimal creep of ‘Emblems Of Another Story’ transitioning to ‘No Tree, No Branch's hectic pop.
This genre-blending isn't confined to just the album, but to individual tracks. ‘Cred Woes’ initially seemed like a baffling choice for lead single, but in hindsight it sums up the record's freewheeling spirit. In three minutes and 47 seconds it moves from a rigid electro beat not a million miles from the EBM of their last album, ‘Mess’, to hummable indie rock to – and get into astrology if you saw this one coming – an apparently accidental homage to the riff from The Knack's ‘My Sharona’.
But for all the eccentricity, it's lyrically somber and downcast. If there's an overriding concept here, it appears to be of heartbreak, sorrow and confusion. "I’m thinking of you all the time,” Andrew says in a pitched down voicemail message (possibly) intended for his former bandmate. Amid their reputation for making abrasive, often confrontational songs, it's easy to forget that there's a deep sincerity in Liars music, stretching as far back as Drum's Not Dead's final line: "I won't run far, I can always be found."
Some may find ‘TFCF's fidgety refusal to stick to a sound infuriating, but for fans, it's a fascinating insight into Liars’ DNA. You can hear echoes of Demdike Stare, Oneohtrix Point Never, experimental tape cut-ups, hip-hop and, yes, '80s sleaze-pop classics, all interwoven with bird calls and the sometimes soothing, sometimes terrifying sounds of the outside world. Fifteen years on from their first album, it reminds you that this band's trajectory is beholden to nothing except Andrew's own insatiable curiosity. Long may it remain this wayward.
Words: Will Salmon
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