ALBUM REVIEW: NZCA LINES – INFINITE SUMMER

7/10

ALBUM REVIEW: NZCA LINES - INFINITE SUMMER

London musician Michael Lovett or as he is better known Nzca Lines released his second album Infinite Summer on January 22. The release reveals some major change ups in his musical direction and additions to the formulation of Nzca Lines. Lovett is no longer going with the one man band concept instead he has widened the line up to a trio. The new material follows his 2012 eponymous debut. Since the debut he has been busy, getting his degree in Illustration and toured extensively for 18 months with Metronomy where he assisted in bringing the band’s vision of electronica to the world.

Nzca Line’s music is best described as ranging from Ciara to Stravinsky with Sci Fi effects tossed into the mix. The band’s name is a hat tip to the ancient geoglyphs Nazca Lines which are found in the Peruvian desert. Lovett has always been interested in Sci Fi and was intrigued by the mystery of who created the mysterious Peruvian lines and likewise thought it was a cool name. Somewhere along the line the first vowel got dropped from the moniker. In recording Infinite Summer Lovett expanded the group adding drummer Sarah Jones of Hot Chip and guitarist, keyboardist Charlotte Hatherley formerly of Ash and Bat for Lashes. His goal for the album was to make a broader more expansive release. Where the debut was somewhat monochromatic Infinite Summer is full Technicolor with everything being more literal and less ambiguous. Charlie Alex March returned to produce the album with Lovett, David Newfeld mixed the release, and Christopher Balaskas created the futuristic artwork for the cover.

Much of the inspiration for “Infinite Summer” comes from what Lovett describes as an extended period of total immersion in reading Sci Fi books by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, Len and JG Ballard. What resulted from that period was a desire to make an album that would combine Sci Fi futurism with personal intimacies. Lovett envisioned the album happening in a future city Cairo/Athens in the far future Earth with a dying Red Dwarf Sun. The album is at times dark, sexy and incandescent. Lovett demands the listener enter the world he has created and suspend reality for awhile.

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The lead off song Approach is the portal into the concept. Like entering through the atmosphere of an unknown planet the quasi instrumental starts forlorn with moody strings, French monologue and bleating horns. It then breaks in to a larger aural sound and you have arrived. Persephone Dreams has a wonky electronic opening. You quickly appreciate the value of adding a live drummer to the release because of the organic element that is injected into the music. Lovett’s pleasing voice entices you further into his premise. It is dreamy electronica that reminds me of Broken Bell’s “After the Disco”. There are also elements of Sufjan Stevens’ electronic experimentation evinced on the song, but in a more tailored British fashion. The song has staying power and makes an impression. It is an apt combination of the organic and electronica.

Chemical is Obvious has fantastic computer generated goodness with an addictive bass line. The vocals on the song are captivating. The track seems to be about questioning what is real and what is artificially produced, “the moment I see it’s you, well I thought it was memory, chemical insomnia.” The driving dance beat of the song provides a canvas for the ethereal vocal and trippy themes to play out upon.

Two Hearts is a catchy radio friendly song fuelled by a definite funky feel. There is mad bass thump on this selection and it feels like Prince is lurking somewhere in the composition of the track. The song takes some familiar 80’s sounds and reinvents them for the current day. It is at its heart an interstellar love song. The title track Infinite Summer has an oscillating keyboard that makes for an engaging sound effect. There is an intersection of funk, dance and electronica and it is filled with Sci Fi lyrical goodness. New Atmosphere is a full on keyboard attack with a droney organ intro and vocals that reminds me of Scritti Politti and early Depeche Mode. It is 80’s New Wave with soaring ethereal vocals and catchy evocative keyboards.

Sunlight has a quirkier keyboard approach and the track is minimal with a great percussion drum pattern. This song is not as 80’s derivative as the prior two tracks, instead there is a seductiveness to the selection. It is trippy and viscous and one of my favorite tracks on the album. How Long Does it Take follows the same construct with an off kilter video game accompaniment. The drums provide a great dance beat and a catchy chorus makes Lovett’s voice the focal point.

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Just when the album could have succumbed to a little too much sameness, the song Jessica takes off. It is a bouncy track that highlights the additional members of the band’s voices. There is a definite organic band feeling to this song. I found myself wishing the album had more songs like this one, it is a real do not miss. The songs Do It Better and Dark Horizon both have funk infused instrumentals married to icy cool vocals that make them intriguing tracks. It is on the final track The World You Have Made for Us that all the experimentation and attempts at glichy goodness hit the bull’s eye. The song explodes sonically after the first chorus. It has identifiable elements of Sufjan Steven’s electronica works. The cool orchestration backs up an examination of existential questioning. Lovett saves the best for last on this final track.

In many ways Nzca Lines with Infinite Summer is attempting something not easily accomplished. The band looks to create a sophisticated adventurous concept album that demands a complete buy in from the listener. The journey is a pleasant and engaging trip. The addition of Jones and Hatherley is inspired and gives the album a wider feel when compared to Nzca Line’s debut. Lovett’s compositions and vocal performance are to be applauded. The album might not be a top 40 entry but it is an engaging combination of varied genres. There are many familiar time warping 80’s electronica music markers, but transformed into something singularly new. Currently Lovett is working with Charlotte Hatherley on her solo album and it should be interesting to see where that album goes sonically compared to this release. The one thing I can say about Infinite Summer it is certainly not boring or trite.

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