cut copy

Album Review: Zonoscope - Cut Copy

Cut Copy's sophomore record, In Ghost Colours, was BlackPlastic's favourite album of 2008. Under the watchful eyes of ex-DFA producer Tim Goldsworthy it seemed that everything the Cutters touched turned to gold. Where debut album Bright Like Neon Love was all glittering pop hooks with the odd post-punk muted guitar the follow up was smeared in a veneer of melancholic synthesisers and seemingly sprinkled with cosmic space dust. Whereas ...Neon Love felt contemporary, In Ghost Colours still sounds like Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac who somehow got stuck in the future with no way of returning. For many, it redefined the reference points - those albums that serve to inspire contemporary musicians. In other words In Ghost Colours is pretty much timeless.

Now Goldsworthy is gone - the question is whether the magic is still there.

One thing is definite - Zonoscope makes a very good first impression. Starting with a trio of killers - 'Need You Tonight', 'Take Me Over' and 'Where I'm Going' - it is difficult not to be won over very early. If you are a fan of the band you are likely to have heard two of these already and both wear Cut Copy's influences on their sleeves - 'Take Me Over' was the Men At Work-esque first single off of the album and 'Where I'm Going', which is even more reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac than anything on the last album, was given away as a free download last year.

Both of these tracks are great but 'Need You Now' still somehow manages to blow them away - a dough-eyed new-romantic-on-MDMA-ballad, the bass pulses along with excitement like a racing heartbeat amid rolling drum breaks and a soaring chorus. It is without doubt the best thing we have heard from Cut Copy yet.

As openers go this almost feels mis-judged. Slamming two singles and an obvious future single right up front leaves the rest of the album feeling slightly askew. Couple that fact with closing track 'Sun God', a fifteen-minute Moroder-esque epic and the first couple of listens to Zonoscope can feel a little deflating. The highs are just so goddamn high that they either make the record's middle third feel somehow less worthy or the highlights themselves end up feeling gimmicky.

But as is often the way with Cut Copy, these are songs that crawl up inside your brain gradually, to the point that you can't imagine a time without them. And they rapidly become as important as the record's more obvious highlights. 'This Is All We've Got' and 'Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat' are better than most tracks on In Ghost Colours whilst 'Alissa' is a fantastic return to that record's dream-like aesthetic. And 'Blink And You'll Miss A Revolution' deserves a mention simply for having the most timely song title of any release, ever.

Several sites, including Pitchfork, have already commented that Zonoscope is more of an album than In Ghost Colours, on the basis that the latter is more a collection of jams than a cohesive whole. BlackPlastic isn't so sure - Bright Like Neon Love was a collection of pop songs, In Ghost Colours a statement of intent. Zonoscope feels no more album like than its predecessor and there are occasional transitions within the first four tracks that feel almost clumsy.

But the songs themselves are certainly as good as any of those Cut Copy have released to now, if not better. This will be the album that divides the hardcore cutters fans from the mainstream - the former might claim this album loses the focus and understatement the band once had, the latter will probably just enjoy the songs. Neither view is wrong - Zonoscope is In Ghost Colour's equal but it doesn't feel as important. This is undeniably another evolution but it doesn't feel like it will change the old records people view as cool, something In Ghost Colours certainly did. Instead it just further reinforces Cut Copy as one of the greatest dance rock bands of our time. And that can be no bad thing.

BP x

Zonoscope is out now, available at on CD, Deluxe CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].

News: New Cut Copy track 'Where I'm Going' is out there...

So when Cut Copy recently alluded to the fact that they had been listening to Fleetwood Mac's Tusk a lot whilst making their new album BlackPlastic wasn't all that surprised. In fact BlackPlastic had always heard strains of Fleetwood Mac in the Copy's sophomore record In Ghost Colours.

But then we hadn't quite expected this. Cut Copy have just released the free download of 'Where I'm Going' on their site in exchange for your email address and it's a pleasant surprise. The influence of producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley) is immediately apparent - the sound is generally more spacious, ambient and psychedelic - and the whole feel of the song is more organic, less electronic. And its bloody marvelous.

What makes Cut Copy so great is that every time they release a new record they sound like a brand new absolutely fantastic band. This track makes BlackPlastic super excited for the album.

Head over to the official Cut Copy website to download 'Where I'm Going'.

BP x

Five songs of the year

It's practically 2010 so it's well and truly time to wrap up our final 2008 lists with possibly the most fun one to put together... Our favourite songs:


5. Ice Cream - Muscles

Ice Cream, as a food, is not big and it's not really particularly clever. However, it is a lovely instant pick me up that melts in your mouth all too quickly. Seriously, everyone loves Ice Cream right? Same goes for this song: from the opening "wooh... ahhh" refrain through to the closing yelps ("I don't need your number, I just want to dance with my shirt off!") no other song acted quite so much like a security blanket for BlackPlastic this year. It's disposable and trivial but it's also gorgeous and super lovely: Ice Cream is gonna save the day. Again.


4. So Haunted (Knightlife's Sun-Soaked Reprise) - Cut Copy

Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours is just too right as a body of work for us to strip one track from it for "best song" honours so we will kind of cheat and go with a remix. Ever since the So Cosmic mix hit everyone has wanted this: the glorious italo-enthused re-imagining of So Haunted. The guitars have gone but otherwise this is a remarkably respectful re-edit. What makes it so great is that little freestyle bit at the end: it's like a five-minute holiday romance.


3. Space and the Woods - Late Of The Pier

Space and the woods still sounds just as good as it did when we first heard it, its raucous synths impervious to ageing: the sound of a fist fight with aliens whilst floating in space in a foil suit. Without doubt the highlight of one of our albums of the year, it demonstrates so much in such a short space of time that experiencing it should be considered homework.


2. Paris - Friendly Fires

We have gone on about it again and again and again (and, ahem... again... sorry). It still makes us go all gooey. The drums and cowbells are still lush, the synths still cosy, the fact it was self-produced astounding. France's capital may be over-priced and lack good restaurants or it may be the capital of romance and passion. Either way it has a song better than it deserves.


1. L.E.S Artistes (xxxchange Remix) - Santogold

BlackPlastic has listened to this song so much, put it on so many mix CDs, told so many people about it that it doesn't seem believable that it came out in 2008. Yet it did, and thank heavens for that. Spank Rock's xxxchange delivers a truly stellar remix again, discarding the fuzzy guitars of the original in favour of skyscraper levelling basslines. This version of 'L.E.S Artistes' retains 100% emotional punch but comes off more like the soundtrack to some Terminator war of the future. It ditches all the elements that potentially caused Santogold's début album to be overlooked - "I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up" indeed - an album of tunes like this one would have been a glorious thing.


BP x

Five compilations of the year

Third of four in BlackPlastic's lists of 2008 and the focus for this one is on the best compilations and mixes of the year.


5. Top Ranking: A Diplo Dub

Diplo and Santogold's Top Ranking managed to do them both a disservice as it took Santogold's LP proper (produced by Diplo) and nabbed the best bits then pissed all over what remained. It was a trawl through some of the most exciting tracks of the past couple of years combined with some classics. Panda Bear AND Devo's 'Get Stiff' in the same mix? Yes please.


4. So Cosmic

2008 was all about the free online mix and by far the best of these was Cut Copy's So Cosmic. Okay, so technically this first hit the streets in 07 and we are beginning to sound like a broken record but it didn't appear online until 2008 and it is just. too. good. to. overlook. Beautiful.  And available here.


3. Cosmic Disco?! Cosmic Rock!!!

A big two-fingered salute to the myriad of Italo / Cosmic disco compilations out this year from Eskimo Recordings with Daniele Baldelli and Marco Dionig, Cosmic Rock was the real deal - a mix by someone that was there, unfettered by the desire to recontextual everything through modern eyes. Sure, at times it may have been cheesy but it was never anything other than awesome.


2. Fabric 41 mixed by Luciano

Sure, it may be little more than a Luciano DJ set commuted to CD but when the material an mixing is this good, who cares? The sublime breakdown into M83's 'Church' remains a highpoint of the year.


1. Notwave

Following the two remixes discs and a quiet period Notwace was a breath of fresh air from DFA. the concept itself was good - imagine what New York's experimental No Wave scene would have sounded like if it had never gone away - but the tunes were what made it. Every one not just different to anything else you'll hear on a compilation released in 2008 but sufficiently different from the rest of the album to make listening a joy.


BP x

Five Electronic Albums of the Year

Putting together these lists is always exceedingly difficult. Usually just remembering every record of note from a year is a challenge in itself but to pick just a handful and bestow some sort of special honour on those is practically impossible, this year more than most. For this year has seen some utterly fantastic records. 2007 was a great year due to a few select releases whereas 2008 had a massive breadth of fantastic releases.

A few that deserve mention that fail to make our list: The sophistication of Morgan Geist (and Junior Boy's Greenspan's) sophisticated Double Night Time. Midnight Juggernauts' Dystopia, which successfully paints another chapter in mixing rock music with dance. Metronomy's beautifully wonky Nights Out, a criminally overlooked pop re-birth. Gang Gang Dance's Saint Dymphna didn't even get a BlackPlastic review (we struggle to catch them all) but trust us - it barely misses out getting in our top five, as do the similarly unreviewed Third by Portishead and Los Angeles by Flying Lotus. The Presets grew to be more than just an also ran with Apocalypso - showing a new level of emotion that was missing off of their debut. M83's ode to Donnie Darko teenage kicks, Saturdays = Youth was another terrific addition to Anthony Gonzalez' cannon - it may lack Before The Dawn Heals Us' more ecstatic moments but it did demonstrate an growing level of focus and a refinement of the overall sound.  Hercules & Love Affair's eponymous album has been credited with the rebirth of disco - BlackPlastic isn't sure that has actually happened but that's nothing to do with the quality of this album, which has a level of maturity and sophistication that should ensure it a place in your collection next to Morgan Geist's 2008 album. Hot Chip failed to make the list, possibly purely due to their own desire for experimentation - in places Made In The Dark matches anything the group have previously released, it just suffered for being unfocused (but hey, focusing IS difficult in the dark).

So here is what DID make the list:


5. Hlllyh - The Mae Shi

Not a perfect record by any stretch, but that is the point in the Mae Shi.  Much to the bemusement of his companions BlackPlastic had the luck to catch them live earlier in the year and it was an unfocused, chaotic mess.  And it was fantastic.  Hlllyh is a record that does everything at once and just about makes it work and for that it deserves applause and love.  It's a rambunctious, noisy, angry-punk-pop-hippie-love-in and it gets a big hug from us.


4. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

As BlackPlastic suspected back when it was reviewed, Crystal Castles' debut was an album that gets better with repeat listens.  Lonely, cold and yet never anything other than totally, uncompromisingly experimental, Crystal Castles have pushed the envelope for all those within the chiptune genre.


3. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

A record that is already seemingly suffering from the "Oh I'm slightly embarrassed I got so excited about that one" treatment for some journalists: Fact magazine's songs of the year list contained a snide comment about this album's failure to 'save indie dance'.

BlackPlastic loves Fact but to that we say a big "fuck you" because this album is so platinum-five-stars it's not even funny. If it has failed to set the world alight it is the failure of Fact, BlackPlastic, music publications everywhere and the general public at large for choosing some talent-less twat off X-Factor EVERY SINGLE TIME. It certainly is not a reflection of the ten gloriously produced punk-funk house-jams hear: this is a record to skip a heart beat too.


2. Fantasy Black Channel - Late of the Pier

Like waking up from a 70s slasher porn flick nightmare Fantasy Black Channel sounds like Bowies' imagined future.  The sound is far more cutting edge than the Klaxons managed on their debut and yet it is filtered through a glorious haze of thick chunky basslines from the aforementioned decade that just make it sound sexier than their contemporaries.  By the album's close, Fantasy Black Channel should have you on your knees with a lighter in the air.


1. In Ghost Colours - Cut Copy

If, for some reason, you are in any doubt as to what makes Cut Copy one of the best acts of our time go and grab their superb So Cosmic mix (alternative link) and, if you can't wait, scan forward to 29:30, where they mix Fleetwood Mac's 'Never Forget' with Lifelike's 'So Electric' and create a hands-in-the-air-tears-in-my-eyes anthem that deserves it's own release, the warm electronic waves of Lifelike's tracks gradually surrounding Stevie Nicks' vocals in a beautiful swell.  It is this mixture of old and new that makes Cut Copy so utterly charming, their ability to combine seemingly disparate sounds into one fantastic piece of music, and in the hands of the DFA's Tim Goldsworthy this ability truly shined.  Just check the glorious combination of the shoe-gazing guitar line of 'So Haunted' with the floating-in-space chorus and the final New Order-esque outro.

What's more, In Ghost Colours is a beautifully sequenced album. Ditch the bonus track bundled with the UK CD version and you have a record that fits together just perfectly, tracks bridged with a series of not-inconsequential interludes.

Cut Copy's debut, Bright Like Neon Love, was a fantastic record.  That In Ghost Colours represents a complete step change in everyone's perceptions of their abilities is a testament to the record: You won't hear a better collection of electronic pop songs from 2008.


BP x