WIXIW, pronounced “wish you” apparently, has been described by Liars’ label as their most challenging record to date, and given the band’s experimental tendencies that’s going to ring some bells. The fact that they also describe it as their most accessible means…what? That they’re confusing themselves? Or that they’ve hit the holy grail of progressive music?
Opener Annual Moon Words is not the abrasive art-dance-punk we expected when we dropped the figurative needle on this record, although it’s nice in a one chord Beta Band-ish fashion. However, it’s followed by the tricksy groove of Brats and this is where the meat of the record starts, wth a dirty bass synth that for 15 seconds makes you think it’s going to avoid any kind of resolution. Then they drop the drums, and then the druggy vocals and the skronky lead synth, and we’re away.
With WIXIW we seem to be hearing Liars giving the people what they want, even if the people won’t admit it. As much as they push glitch in tracks like Octagon and channel Vangelis in Who is the Hunter, this is essentially a listener-friendly dance album. That might sound like a slight, but it’s not: it’s a dance album, but one that’s full of depth and detail. The songs aren’t over-structured and don’t have any of the harsher dynamics we might have expected. Instead they tend to be based around incremental layering of synths, bassy drums and ambient samples. While that sort of thing can sound like a long jam, here it all beds down nicely, with vocals that are just the right side of unintelligible.
You could call it drugs music, but the strongest feeling we get is confidence. Liars obviously knew where they wanted to go with this record, and have delivered something unashamedly pleasing and clever. Is it groundbreaking? It’s hard to tell with such dense music that relies a lot on subtlety, but it’s up there with their best.