Courtesy Mute Records
The last Liars record was the "Los Angeles record"--named Sisterworld and recorded in L.A. during a time when singer/guitarist Angus Andrew was clipping stories on local crime. By the time they were done, he told one interviewer, he'd covered an entire wall. And while you wouldn't quite say that's the actual sound of Sisterworld, it wasn't a record that felt like it was built on a lot of good news.
The new Liars record, however... this one's not about Los Angeles at all. Instead, WIXIW (out now on Mute) seems like its mostly located in the artwork of Trevor Paglen, who photographs top secret U.S. government installations from miles and miles away. That's the black world, as the jargon goes, run by three-letter agencies like CIA and NRO and NSA where things are mysterious and blurry and always at the edge of definition. (Along with black budgets, black ops and probably lots of black coffee--it's a cheerful place!) And that's the feel of WIXIW, too.
As for the sound of WIXIW? Three letters there, too: PiL, Neu! and Gas, all bands that took music down to its component level. The Rothko-style synthscapes of Germany's minimalists Gas--also an influence on Liars' fellow travelers No Age--are all over WIXIW, which abandons (except for the song "Brats") the car-crash beatmusic that first made Liars famous. Instead, the comparatively gentle never-ending motorbeats of krautrock pioneers Neu! propel this album. It's music for gliding, not driving. And Public Image Limited's John Lydon's there in dissipated form--not quite an animating spirit, but on a song like "Octagon," you can almost hear him hissing through the speakers.
There's a lot more going on, of course--even if they've traveled too much to maintain an actual collection of vinyl LPs, Liars must still be packing billions of bytes worth of the most iconoclastic and interesting music ever barely reissued. You'll hear some Factory Records, some Rough Trade, maybe some heavy Keith Hudson dub effects and probably the B-sides of all the singles comped on New York Noise. But Liars are a band who--like Mark E. Smith famously said about the Fall--put more ideas in their album packaging than most bands pack into their top ten hits. Because of that, WIXIW is an album that delivers revelations but demands deciphering. And because of that, it's exactly the record you'd expect Liars to make. And that's probably one of the first times anyone's ever said that, too.