Ruth's Manuvas


My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Cut Copy: Zonoscope – album review

Cut Copy - Zonoscope

To last the distance, a serious relationship must be able to get past the heady early days, eventually giving way to affection and security. Cut Copy could easily have failed to translate the surge of dopamine-excitement they created with their first two albums into something more long-lasting. But in Zonoscope, they’ve managed to maintain flurries of stomach-turning moments with a developed sound that makes it feel like a natural progression.

The original Aussie trio of Dan Whitford, Tim Hoey and Mitchell Dean Scott have now been joined by bassist Ben Browning. And together, they’ve delved deeper, producing an album mixed by Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter) that feels like calm after the rush of 2004’s Bright Like Neon Love, and the near-perfect In Ghost Colours of 2008.

A long build up on Need You Now piques curiosity for the new material, giving way to that familiar Australian vocal and altogether less familiar electro-minus-the-pop sound, prefixed by 80s tinges. Take Me Over’s calypso drums add percussion elements to the kind of Cut Copy sunshine dance that originally stole the heart, while its stories of love rely heavily on metaphor to ward off any triteness.

There’s a strong Beach Boys feel to Where I’m Going – from the cooing harmonies, to the off-beat drums and guitar rhythms. Psychedelic keyboards hark back to The Who, while the chorus, which at first feels a bit cringeworthy shouts, ‘Woah, yeah yeah yeah yeah!’. Any initial adverse reaction later settles upon imagining the response it would receive in a festival field.

Both Pharaohs and Pyramids and Blink and You’ll Miss the Revolution have a knack of smoothly soldering two tracks together. The former flutters in like The Orb’s Fluffy Little Clouds, yielding to Kraut-dance influences before a 90s keyboard loop bursts in halfway, sending unmistakable Cut Copy coursing through the veins with shades of melancholic New Order riffs. Breathy wooden notes and uncharacteristically low vocals punctuate the latter track’s suspense-coiled verses. In a Jekyl and Hyde twist, soaring keyboards and disco beats are reintroduced as Whitford declares, ‘Blink and you’ll miss the revolution’.

Unlike the frequent dreamy interludes of In Ghost Colours, the stark piano, dreamy ‘oohs’ and rewinding chimes of Strange Nostalgia for the Future make up the only instrumental segway track on the album. Escalating notes introduce This Is All We’ve Got, where Dovesy offbeat drums and electric guitar once again yield to quixotic reverb and see-sawing fairground notes. These blend into Alisa – a heavier, shoegazy track with a determined beat, served with Pink Flloyd experimental, ranging guitars that threaten to snap strings until the chorus releases the tension.

If unfamiliarity begins to reign severe towards the album’s end, Hanging onto Every Heartbeat’s fiddly chimes and twinkles reward loyalty by breaking midpoint, sending the track coursing through the ear drums. Corner of the Sky continues whetting the appetite for big beats and buzzing synth loops. Sun God satisfies, signalling Cut Copy’s bold intent as Zonoscope’s 15-minute curtain call. It drills ‘Are you gonna give me your love? Love won’t be enough’, into the subconscious over an insistent beat that batters you into submission with piques, builds, drops, and repeats.

This epic close is the emphatic full stop that should ward off any whispers suggesting the album is a disappointing come down from the heady, poppy positivity of In Ghost Colours. Those who fell for Cut Copy after Bright Like Neon Love will notice that – like all relationships that are built to last – the heady beginnings haven’t disappeared. They’ve just been blended with a new maturity and breadth of sound that’s taken them to new and better things.

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