Kaleidoscope Sounds

The ambitious Melbourne club rockers up the ante with “Zonoscope.”

Andrew Penkalski

Cut Copy

Album: âÄúZonoscopeâÄù

Label: Modular Records

Electronic bands are a blast for audiophiles. This largely stems from the technical invitation being offered to the listener. Sure, the emotive nature of a band like Cut Copy or even the more brainy outputs of someone like Flying Lotus work on a substantially expressive nature, but listening to electronic (be it dance, dubstep, grime or disco) is about the little things.

ItâÄôs about noticing that one loop of âÄô70s Elton John keys that sits in the background but carries the entire track. ItâÄôs about the intricacies, which is why Cut Copy is a group that is only growing.

Their 2008 breakthrough LP, âÄúIn Ghost ColoursâÄù âÄî a collection of sprawling, stadium-worthy dance tracks âÄî came off as an awesome rock hybrid. The studio gravitas of producer and DFA Records co-founder Tim Goldsworthy pushed the mix towards a blend of guitars, drums and escalating synths. As is the tradition with much of DFAâÄôs productive output, succinct orchestration usually resonates as the central goal. From GoldsworthyâÄôs creative stamp on Hercules and Love AffairâÄôs first record to MurphyâÄôs guiding hand on Free EnergyâÄôs âÄúStuck on Nothing,âÄù these mixing-board masters have a history of teasing out a groupâÄôs greatest strengths. So in the wake of their enlightening experience with two electronic figureheads, does Cut Copy have the capacity to go it alone with âÄúZonoscope?âÄù

The answer is a resounding âÄúyes.âÄù What becomes evident from even the earliest moments of the album opener, âÄúNeed You Now,âÄú is how persistent the DFA involvement still resonates within Cut CopyâÄôs output. The trackâÄôs bedrock of pulsing house synthesizers or tapping glass percussion shows their affinity for the similar club tradition groups like LCD Soundsystem draw upon. But it also shows their ability to not rest on the simple laurels of their past instructors.

Frontman Dan Whitford has only grown more confident in his vocal range. He hits his Leonard Cohen baritones while also hitting fragile David Byrne moans. It is a range that also comes with purpose.

While âÄúIn Ghost ColoursâÄù offered a bevy of straightforward dancefloor hooks, there was a missing passion in delivery. When Whitford sings âÄúRun for the last train / whatever will get you home,âÄù amidst the opening trackâÄôs crescendo, he does so with a greater confidence and interest in the words. Where in the past the group at times felt like a rudimentary exercise in style, âÄúZonoscopeâÄù now shows a group exploring a well of aural eccentricities all their own.

Which returns to that principle idea of the analytical joys of electronic production. âÄúWhere IâÄôm Going,âÄù a track that steeps itself in Beach Boys harmonies and bells, carries itself not by its âÄúPet SoundsâÄù proximities, but rather by the delicate repeated guitar progression. It also shows Cut CopyâÄôs unique ability to walk this tightrope of rock band and house revivalists. Later tracks like the shoegaze-infused disco romp âÄúAlisaâÄú only reiterate the bandâÄôs expansive ambition.

It isnâÄôt too often that an album cover offers any insight to accompanying music, but the monstrous metropolitan flood gracing the sleeve of âÄúZonoscopeâÄù is entirely indicative of Cut CopyâÄôs artistic confidence. It only takes one listen to prove that it is entirely warranted.

3/4 Stars