A troupe of disaffected looking young men projected onto an expanse of blur. The same group wielding neon strip lights in front of them like light sabers, or the umbrellas from Blade Runner. These are the images that have been produced by the self-labeled Australian indie/electro band Cut Copy to accompany their newest release, “In Ghost Colours” (yes, color is spelled like that outside of this country).
The album features softer rock mixed with synth-electro, and it really works, kind of how dropping a hairdryer in the ocean wouldn’t. While it may seem too doped-out for the hardcore of the alternative scene, the album at once manages to be pleasantly poppy and different at the same time. Veering towards a more sublime version of Simian Mobile Disco at its most constructed, the sound is definitely well developed and will be well appreciated both on the dance floor and at home.
And the color of the album is a blue-grey mix, which is cool. Definitely the shade of Melbourne’s water spirits.
Let’s continue with the ghost theme. Ghosts are spirits of dead people that manifest on Earth for those who didn’t know. And they apparently create synth sounds that can be released on CD format. “So Haunted” is indicative of the album’s more international rock influence. It’s good indie, perhaps not the most inventive of songs, but calming, innocent and free. Synthetic wisps lurk for most of the song at the peripheries and then kick in at the end in a symphony of synthesized sound that places itself somewhere between art-pop and the more relaxed strain of UK Garage that has been developed in recent years.
“In Ghost Colours” is an album that has problems of identity and ephemerality. Is it a dance album? Is it a furthering of the rock genre? How far can the boundaries of electro be pushed? These are all questions the album asks and neglects to answer; the band is too busy chilling on hot airwaves that swirl around the canyons of the mind and brisk up thoughts from the mundane.
The first track on the album, “Feel The Love” starts off rather slowly but builds into this soaring motion, something like The Great Condor Arranu up in the sky, learning that “all the clouds have silver linings,” cawing loudly and asserting its presence on its world. “Hey you” is repeated again and again, followed by the distorted voices of the band, making something of a “chilled party classic.”
“Nobody Lost Nobody” is a song with more debt to the electronic movement than the lyrics that try to keep it rooted in the rock scene. “Ha ha ha / Burn in the face of love” might not sound like the most original or inspiring refrain, but the words don’t really seem to make much difference.
It’s no surprise that “Lights and Music” was chosen as the single; it is one of the best tracks on the album. “Tell me what you hope to say on your birthday … / Everyone will be dismayed if your promise breaks,” shifts around vocalist Dan Whitford to the background of a beat that is fun, but not all out, subdued, describable only with reference to prescription drug abuse: Codeine (which is a controlled substance in Australia too, folks). A state of opium trance is what the band creates along with an almost transcendent feeling of grace and spirit.
The band manages to create a modern interpretation of the new wave sound without referencing it too much, allowing Cut Copy creative freedom to develop something which is more than just a copy of Joy Division, Berlin-era Bowie etc… More like New Wave+.
“We Fight for Diamonds” represents best the quasi-spiritualistic use of electronic influences by the band, the ghosts that the title references. Behind the opiated joviality, there are still musical phantoms that lurk and terrorize the band, manifesting the tortured innards of the separated psyche. Although these image fragments are short and distorted, they manage to bind the album together, creating a definite otherworldly atmosphere that one can associate with the songs.
You’re going to have to listen to “In Ghost Colours” over and over again — it’s just a fact of life. And with this weather coming on, it will provide an excellent soundtrack to watching the clouds float around the sky. With it on, you may even see The Great Condor Arranu.