Monday, 28 October 2013

Cut Copy - Free Your Mind


Cut Copy's pre-release single "Free Your Mind" has been on repeat since its release on the 11th of October. It has a similar effect on the listener, as Primal Scream's "Come Together", and "Loaded". Primal Scream's love for acid house and alternative dance sprouted out of Manchester, which was, at the time, the hub of music - the second summer of love. John Cale produced Happy Monday's debut album Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), and John Leckie on The Stone Roses eponymous album. Two well known producers, creating a vibe, a sound that's been taken and worn out, stitched back together, and placed in the history books since 1987. The wave of popular alternative dance and acid house was born in Manchester, and taken to Glasgow in 1991 for Screamadelica. Why does this matter? you ask. It matters more than you could ever imagine - Jagwar Ma, Django Django, and Hot Chip can back me up on this. Artists have taken this sound formed during the praised 'madchester' period, and used it to their advantage, from Chicago, to Glasgow, to London, to Sydney, and to Melbourne. This music takes us on a journey, much like the proclaimed journey of the psychedelic drugs LSD and MDMA. Cut Copy are the latest artist to pop up with a 87' - 91' influenced sound reminiscent of those Screamadelica album tracks taken from the psychedelic 60s à la The 13th Floor Elevators. With Free Your Mind, it begins at 0:00 and never fails to entertain and bring the listener back till the album is over. The 20 second synthesizer sample saying: "Free your mind, free your mind," is enough to realise what this album details. It's the coolness of a sunset stroll, enjoying the natural aspects of life with great music playing.

Titular single "Free Your Mind" energises and defines Cut Copy's fourth studio album. Vocalist Dan Whitford has never had the strongest of vocals, but when multi-layered with synthesizer swoops and loud, gospel-esque piano stabs, his voice becomes something of an attraction. There’s little depth in Whitford's singing as such, but with "Free Your Mind", the music behind him is enough to tell the audience what he, Cut Copy, and Free Your Mind is all about. Its been produced by famed Lips and Rev producer Dave Fridmann, to add that psychedelia imagery and texture to Cut Copy's sound. Fridmann has spotted weaknesses in Cut Copy's sound and decided to patch them up with the same instruments that earned Primal Scream the first Mercury Prize in 1992. To follow this up - "We Are Explorers". The third track completely avenges LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy's retirement of that project. Cut Copy are using their synthesizers, lighter and heavier than usual, to create a trance-like sound that's both perfect for late night listening, and party dance music. And Cut Copy continue to progress their sound and future with a house track in the shape of "Let Me Show You". It has the synthesizer note riff powerful enough to come across as a post-1980 Suicide riff, with Whitford's reverberated vocals akin to Alan Vega. This is the first splash of Free Your Mind Cut Copy fans would have been heard, and the structure, direction, and total control of the track shows a certain dignity and conformation that the Australian quartet are not afraid to upset even their longest of supporters to follow the music they love.

90 seconds of "Into The Desert" is enough to confuse the listener into believing this is actually Cut Copy's composition and not one of Brian Eno's back catalogue.  The twinkling sounds that represent waves and rain drops are very much alike Balam Acab. It plays in to "Footsteps", the four and  half minute 90s euro dance club anthem. It's reminiscent of the rave scenes from The Hacienda in Manchester. There’s a great synthesizer flanger riff, with the hard hitting squishy bass found on the old Chicago acid house recordings that were created with a Roland TB-303. Cut Copy are very much playing to the 80s / 90s kid with Free Your Mind. It's not all pure baggy / madchester music, as "In Memory Capsule" takes listeners back to Cut Copy's earlier days.

It's the vocal cuts, such as on "Into The Desert" and "Above The City" are samples from movies, to which, I don't know. They act as breaks, interludes, crossovers / skits for the more defining tracks. "Dark Corners Mountain Tops" is one of the standout tracks on Free Your Mind. It's the first sign of a drum kit focussing in, with an acoustic guitar and a pretty progression, which you would expect a music video of slow moving vehicles to be associated with it. There are still the general synthesizers and samples, such as the siren which runs through the background. This reminds me of an early M83, taking guitars and reverb to create electronic rock influenced by both shoegaze and glamorous ambient sounds. "Dark Corners Mountain Tops" is out of character for Cut Copy, it's a track nobody was expecting, first for the live drum kit percussion, and second for the harmonics most akin to The Beach Boys. 

Free Your Mind is the rightful follow-up to Primal Scream's Screamadelica. Cut Copy are taking in all aspects of sound and influences, using their knowledge with three fabulous electronic albums to create what is essentially an acid house / alternative dance masterpiece. "Take Me Higher" is a nod to Primal Scream's "Higher Than The Sun", and least likely, but perhaps a sly nod to Sly & The Family Stone's psychedelic soul single "I Wanna Take You Higher". It's another banger, featuring on an album with no filler, only killer dance tunes for those wanting a break from their lives. The clear piano riff comes back, with effect, really emphasising the instruments use alongside psychedelic reverberated synthesizers and layered vocals. Where the classic house instrumentals were profusely minimal, Cut Copy does the opposite with Free Your Mind. They're maxed out on every track, even the segues are plastered with openings and closings of tracks. Perhaps the biggest and most historic fused track on Free Your Mind is the 10th track "Meet Me In A House of Love". Apart from its artistic title; the musical content blows the concept out in the open. Whitford sings: "Once I was lost, but in this house I can be found," a coy pun towards the genre they're emulating, and the album title - Free Your Mind. After all, this is what it's all about. Cut Copy are attempting to open our minds through the medium of music, allowing us to interpret their music in any way we see possible. That's the feeling transmitted with these back album tracks, especially on the penultimate track which is the essential closer "Walking In The Sky". Again, Whitford sings a lyric closely related to the albums concept: "You've got to live your life today, tomorrow is a world away." An uplifting closer to complete a set of songs which all point to space rock themes. "Walking In The Sky", "Above The City", "Free Your Mind", "Take Me Higher" - they're all pointing upwards, towards the heavens ("Movin' On Up", "Higher Than The Sun", "Shine Like Stars".) Cut Copy's Free Your Mind is as religiously inclined and directed at a greater being, as Spiritualized in 1997. And nobody can miss the blatant Primal Scream / The 13th Floor Elevators references throughout this album, especially on "Meet Me In A House of love" ("Slip Inside This House").

Free Your Mind is made up of nine key bulky tracks, all of which are superb and memorable. The five interludes / outros are integral to the overall feel and flow of Cut Copy's fourth album. Without them, it would just be a compilation of alternative dance recordings. It's these tracks featuring vocal samples like "Mantra" and "Above The City" that completes the picture. Free Your Mind isn't quite flawless of course. There are elements on "Let Me Show You Love" that Cut Copy maybe could have done without, such as the opening siren sounds which are recurring in this track. Then there are the synthesizer stabs, which at times sound more like 00s trance than 80s / 90s house. It's always difficult to pull off an album so blatantly taken from previous albums and eras. Allah-Las tried to release a surf rock album influenced by the simple west coast 60s, the outcome was poor. Jake Bugg attempted to re-create a Dylan / Oasis fused album, which also came out poor. Cut Copy needed to add their own plaque, in order for this album to come across more than just a cut and paste copy. It's actually Whitford's vocals that put Free Your Mind on the board as one of 2013's best albums. Cut Copy are thinking above and beyond with Free Your Mind, they needed to advance their sound and not be stuck behind a bridge after their last two efforts were received with unlimited praise. Long-time fans of Cut Copy might not like this, they might not even get this; that's all for their minds to accept or dismiss. Having cited Screamadelica as one of our (MRD) favourite albums, it's no wonder that Free Your Mind is sticking. They've broken a 2013 gimmick, and at the same time taken the aging sound of house and sprayed an array of freshener over it. The self-titled track is nothing short of genius, and "Take Me Higher"  may just be the best Cut Copy track to date. Free Your Mind is another example at how a band can create an era, a sound, an idea - like Bobby Gillespie and his posse in the 90s. The concept, may not be an outspoken one, but it's intentional. Cut Copy, having played the genre for a decade, are freeing up their choices and direction, and at the same time are teaching audiences to… - Free Your Mind, as the album cover so blatantly shows.
~Eddie Gibson 

9.2

Originally posted by Eddie on The National Student.

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