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NZCA/LINES David Peschek , March 15th, 2012 13:35

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In the shiny pop utopia of my more fervid imaginings, there's a sweet spot triangulated from Man Machine and Computer World-era Kraftwerk, Scritti Politti (from any damn era) and Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Forbidden Colours' (and you could square it with NZCA labelmate Susumu Yokota). Because pop should be/is a place of magic where dreams come true, there is NZCA/LINES – a debut so exquisitely tooled I cannot find a thing wrong with it. If the word weren't so open to misinterpretation, I'd call it perfect.

Romance, wit, human frailty – little miracles of the (not-so) mundane, measured out by the metronomic precision of machines. A swoon amidst bleeps.

Like Active Child's Pat Grossi, Michael Lovett is a solipsistic angel (understandably) entranced by his own voice. Lovett coos creamily, delights in sudden, delicate vocal swoops, and the pleasure in play is palpable: in 'Okinawa Channels' the ecstatic, multi-tracked 'Yes!' at 2.30 and 2.46 is so heart-stoppingly sweet you can't but smile, and then skip back through the track just to give yourself that little hit again, and again; then there's the all-too-brief 'AM Travel Interlude' which is interstellar doo-wop, as imagined by Benjamin Britten.

Unlike Active Child – windswept, gothic, splashed with neon, directed by Michael Mann - Lovett makes NZCA a little wonky, sexy, funny, intimate and precise, choosing specific everyday images ('the coins in my pocket…/the rain on the bonnet') and making them glow. If NZCA/LINES were a film, it might be directed by Michael Winterbottom.

NZCA/LINES is probably going to be compared in certain quarters to Hot Chip – well, imagine Hot Chip if all the songs were as good as the good songs, and there wasn't the overwhelming sense they were working really, really hard at it; NZCA/LINES is probably also going to be compared to Junior Boys – where (despite early promise) there's little hint of anything substantially effortful, where all messily fleshy humanity has been abstracted into ether. There's an instinctual deftness here, a melodic facility that makes everything truly felt but never laboured.

The gestures towards an international itinerary – Japan, Peru, the dream-geography of sorta theme-song 'Nazca' itself – belie the essential Britishness of this music. That's not British like Britpop, it's British like Robert Wyatt's Dondestan, like Prefab Sprout skipping through different Americas on From Langley Park To Memphis. Irresistible opener 'Compass Points' has some of that record's wide-eyed, unabashed romance (and none of its occasionally cloying clever-cleverness). The first few seconds encompass everything that's wonderful about NZCA/LINES – a perfectly clipped beat set in a lustrous emptiness, contrasted with a sort of synthetic twang that's deliciously (but only by the merest whisker) a little bit off, and Lovett – breathing: insistent, warm, human, immediate. Perfect, dammit. Perfect.

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Mar 16, 2012 9:40am

Disagree with the Hot chip comparison. I personally find Hot chip's aesthetic unique and effortless. NZCA/LINES seems desperate to escape with also-ran indie past.

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Mar 16, 2012 10:01am

Obviously I'm misinterpreting like a beast here
The pinnacle of all music? :)
Sounds more like fussy electro, top-button done up/bit weak music.
Very NOW, and by that I mean instantly dated.
But that's me, and I'm wrong right

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Mar 16, 2012 4:05pm

Just played the album for the first time and utterly blown away. I agree the Hot Chip comparison is slightly iffy but, the first half in particular, is spellbinding. I think Prince territory is where he's wanting to be, and on hearing, I reckon he could be the closest we've had to the little genius in a very long time.

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Mar 24, 2012 8:13pm

In reply to Bobe:

Ha, you got me there. Yeah, perfect is a terrible word to saddle anything with. It always suggests a kinda deadness, to me. Hence my struggle to resist using it through the review. I meant perfect in the sense of that moment when you're listening to something new and you're so entranced by it - like when you have a crush on someone, maybe, and are blind to any faults they may have - that it possesses you/obsesses you totally

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Mar 24, 2012 8:17pm

In reply to :

...and with regard to NOWness as perjorative, hmmm - not sure about that. We can choose whether to be bothered by things that signify a particular period - but that can add to, as well as detract from, our enjoyment, no? NZCA doesn't sound particularly now - whatever that is. It doesn't sound especially 'then' either, I don't think. And wit, lyrical dexterity and melodic grace don't tend to 'date'...

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Mar 24, 2012 8:18pm

In reply to Milkmaid:

you know what? I felt mean the moment i read that. Hot Chip can be great.

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John Calvert
Apr 22, 2012 11:57am

Great writing

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Apr 22, 2012 7:57pm

I agree with an overall Hot Chip vibe, but I defy you to listen to Atoms and Axes and not think Metronomy.

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