It may only be February, but, in Zonoscope, Cut Copy has already created this year’s essential summer album. Unashamedly dripping in 80’s synth sounds and an amazing blend of the mechanical and the organic, Zonoscope will delight and amaze in equal measure.
1. Need You Now
2. Take Me Over
3. Where I’m Going
4. Pharoahs & Pyramids
5. Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution
6. Strange Nostalgia For The Future
7. This Is All We’ve Got
9. Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat
10. Corner Of The Sky
11. Sun God
Three years after the release of the storming, critically acclaimed In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy has returned with an even more accomplished and rich piece of synth-pop heaven in Zonoscope. Embracing a multitude of styles and influences, Cut Copy has produced something very much of the time, yet quite retro feeling, something that is unmistakably antipodean, yet that infuses an energy and sounds from across the globe. The result is quite stunning.
From the beginning, in “Need You Now”, we are treated to over minute of a simple, yet infectious, repetitive beat that behoves the listener to nod in time. Already you’re hooked, enthralled in its trance. When Whitford’s vocals kick in, it is like the hypnotist whispering instructions and like that, you’re gone, whisked off to a vast metropolis, bursting with skyscrapers spinning all around you as you run, searching for your loved one amongst the madness as the whole album opens out in front of you like an electro-funk labyrinth, waiting to be explored.
There is, without question, a sense of the epic about “Need You Now”, and it is certainly a killer track to open the album with. Full of urgency and warmth, this is a belter that will only sound better when the summer kicks in. Listening to Zonoscope, you can almost taste summer on your lips, it is so upbeat and funky and full of infectious 80’s new-wave synth-pop. While previous Cut Copy releases have been laced with rock, Zonoscope is all about the groove. “Take Me Over” in particular is insatiable in its downright dirty groovy-ness. If, for some reason, you have ever wondered what would happen if Men At Work rolled Yeasayer and Duran Duran into a giant spliff, smoked them, and then began to make music again, then the answer would be found in “Take Me Over”. That may sound like an unnecessarily frightening prospect but honestly, it isn’t. Break out the giant shoulder-pads and just go with it.
That 80’s synth-feel is prominent and it is worth remembering that Cut Copy was one of the early adopters of the neu-80’s synth sound. This is simply a continuation, no, an evolution of that approach, “Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution” opens with the line, “Have you heard the latest reinvention in the streets?”, this is the latest reinvention, and it’s a damn good one.
That’s not to say that all the tracks sound just like an 80’s tribute band, far from it. Tim Hoey told Spin that the band has been combining their usual sparse electro style with “more organic sounds, more organic percussion.” When asked about the albums cover image (a photo collage of New York swept away in a waterfall created by the late Japanese photomontage artist Tsunehisa Kimura), by prefixmag.com, Whitford went further, ”The image is very mechanical in one sense, but also incredibly organic in another. It’s also very grand in scope, which I think is well represented on the record.” He’s spot on. We know that Cut Copy can do mechanical and industrial, but the natural sounds that emanate from within Zonoscope is a pleasant surprise. The level of world music influence is notable (the layers of multi instrumental, African, tribal and Caribbean beats adds to the pop accessibility of the album) as is the nod to house music (“Pharoahs & Pyramids” builds to a genuine hands in the air, euphoric climax). The song writing is also of a high quality, with remarkable little pop songs, great hooks and choruses littered throughout. “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” in particular, along with “Need You Now” (lyrically) could have been mega pop-hits for your more established, mainstream acts.
There is, to be fair, an ever-so-slight lull in proceedings in the middle of the album but it all kicks back into life with “Alisa”, “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” and “Corner Of The Sky” before culminating in the blockbuster finale, “Sun God”. Ambitious doesn’t really cover the decision to close what is arguably Cut Copy’s most accessible album to date, with a 15 minute trip through the bands oeuvre. It is like a mini album on its own, pitching and rolling through styles and soundscapes like a spacecraft whisking across the horizon, and it’s stunning. This is a superb piece of tropical, tribal and groove-tastic synth-pop. Get it and enjoy it.
A verson of this review first appeared on 411Mania.com on Tuesday 8 February.