Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Gotye - Like Drawing Blood

It's 2006, you've found yourself in the initial stages of "getting into" electronic music. You're browsing online stores, editable encyclopedias and monthly magazines hoping to find something that can kick off what you hope will become the principle genre for personal enjoyment. It was half-way through the year on a curious May when I came across a fairly abstractly-defined record by the name of Like Drawing Blood. Its tags classed it as "electronica" and its length clocked in at just under 48 minutes. There's no denying this was an album I would have no hesitation in looking into. But what about its sound: a worthy starting point for electronic music? In the end, definitely not. But what about music as a whole; music as an experience, an adventure and of an emotive form of expression. Without a shadow of a doubt. YES.

The first "non-skit" track 'The Only Way' is a groovy flutter of jazzy guitars, drums and the occasional horn echoing from out of the corner of your speakers. Gotye, real-name Wally De Becker, switches between gentle mutters and heightening hold-ons, voice playing both the part of meshing the instruments together, before breaking them apart - horns bellowing out a sound scape that continues to stretch out before us. Its clumsy-esque pattern works well to rise the listener's mood in the opening minutes. A perfect scenario so that all can be dissolved back into obscurity with the following tracks 'Heart's A Mess' & 'Coming Back', de Becker's lyrical specialism at holding notes at the right point allowing the music to flow from one  delicately stringed instrument to what could either be the soft press of percussion, the elevation of string arrangements or something else entirely.

It's when we get to 'Thanks For Your Time' - a four-plus minute homage (or rather anti-homage) to call-centres and company customer service, or the lack thereof - where Gotye's charismatic, almost innocently naive, approach to lyrical context comes into full flight. The song itself is quite simple, a lone synthesizer laying down a beat while a moody bass line accompanies De Becker's minimalist choice of vocal tone. What makes this song stand out - no doubt credit to the lyrics is needed - is the level of emotion and outright human connection to the concept of the song; Gotye singing/listing off our shared frustration
and both experiencing it himself. It counts towards the track, yes...but when contrasting against the rest of the record, it demonstrates De Becker's widened talent at picking specific moods for specific themes.

Gotye makes no hesitation to trying to pack-in as much into a solitary album as possible. No doubt people will argue over whether this album is classed as "electronica" - the very same no doubt would prefer to class this as "pop" or "indie" perhaps - but in this case, it doesn't matter. There are elements of this and bits-and-bobs of that, one would be forgiven for thinking it sounds misdirected or undefined. But the truth is, the opposite is true.

The album is one man's adventure/misadventure into music as a human experience. And where 'Learnalilgivinanlovin' is an upbeat feel-good heightener, other tracks such as 'A Distinctive Sound'lean more towards music's emotive properties on us as humans. And it's the album's unofficial closer, 'Night Drive' that truly stands out as a heart-bleeder. A comfortably repeated guitar pattern and choir-esque layering of sound (and later vocals) leave De Becker's soft and harmless voice to float between the time signatures. If earlier tracks demonstrated Gotye's playful and in one case, humorous approach to music, then this no doubt is a clear example of his more serious side; a side more lenient on romance and the romantic bond between voice and sound.

In truth, Like Drawing Blood as a whole demonstrates this. But what makes it stand out above all independently-produced records is its pic-n-mix nature; its almost non-sensical expression of many emotions- be it joy, sorrow, love or even sarcasm - and above all, its organic-esque swirl of ideas and approaches. Each track a different take; each sound a different emotion; each verse telling its own story.

Much like its cover, Like Drawing Blood can be summed up in a few words: bold, experimental, rich...and a little on the childish side.




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