I’m going to start this review with a disclaimer: Results May Vary. This album will not be for everybody, a fact probably made obvious when you take into account the fact the band used balloons, dripping water, foil and small metal figures as instruments. This isn’t as pretentious as it sounds, or as encapsulating a set of restrictions as Hecate and Venetian Snare’s Nymphomatriarch – an album created solely from sounds generated by the two of them bumping uglies and as the booklet charmingly puts “inserting microphones.”
Heading backwards through the news on their website (www.liarsliarsliars.com) to March and earlier will take you to a series of disjointed videos documenting the albums creation. The resultant sound is so heavily processed that the final result is very far removed from it’s source. In this way you can appreciate the album in a very real sense, not just simply nodding your head, scratching your beard and nodding “mmm… clever” as you might be wont to do with slightly more abstract albums like Amon Tobin’s ISAM. It comes as a stark contrast to their previous album Sisterworld – a loud raucous, guitar-driven affair that was in turns violent and mournful. This album instead is concerned largely with an electronic sound – primarily that of the Warp catalog. It’s also a lot quieter and introspective.
The closest companion to this album would be Radiohead’s Kid A, a similarly divergent electronic affair, but while Kid A took comfort in warm synths and a very organised, quantised way of writing and recording (except with the noticeably unhinged National Anthem) WIXIW instead feels chaotic and oppressive. Off-kilter rhythms and unsettling drones lie just below the calm surface. The opening track shimmers along warm synths then slowly introduces a slinky bassline, very much in the Radiohead vein, but keeps adding extra ideas. The album as a whole works much the same way, slowly piling on layers of dread and taking you further and further away from that calming beginning. In some ways it also has a sibling in Portishead’s stunning Third. Liar’s lead single No.1 Against the Rush lifts off with an arpeggiating synthline that brings to mind the 80’s apocalyptic film-esque The Rip. It also shares Third‘s penchance for oppressive spellbinding rhythms, but Liar’s are not new to that game.
Within Liars own oeuvre, WIXIW feels most at home with Drum’s Not Dead, a creepy droning album built around heavily processed drum sounds – but a great deal quieter, and a little more diverse. Drum’s Not Dead was fantastically hypnotic but slightly one note (not a slight against it.) WIXIW however tries it’s digital hands at a variety of styles in the vein of their self titled album but never feels as forced.
Liars have always been very good at articulating an almost prehistoric reactionary anger in their music, quite often feeling like some sort of primal pagan ritual. This undercurrent continues unabated in WIXIW, but has been pushed under the surface. While their album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned delighted in overpowering bombastic rhythms and repeated screams of “BLOOD, BLOOD, BLOOD, BLOOD,” WIXIW casts everything with a growing sense of unease and confusion. The righteous anger that burst the seams of their previous album Sisterworld wide open has been replaced by the anxious flailing of somebody who doesn’t quite know his place in the world any more. “Teach me how to be a person” mourns singer Angus Andrew on Flood to Flood. A lot of the lyrics are dealing with worries for the future and confusion in general.
It is quite subdued (particularly in comparison to older albums) but I don’t think this hampers it. Some people might find it a little boring as it’s lacking the “Loud/Quiet” formula of dynamics so prevalent in modern music and is also quite minimalistic in terms of instrumentation. That said, I do consider it to be an excellent album, and definitely a grower, much like their previous work. I’m not sure it’s their best work, but it might be their most accessible, and for that reason I might suggest this as a starting point before leaping backwards.