Published Jul 17, 2018For all of the unpredictable offerings Liars have made over the past 18 years —as skittering dance punks, witchy glitchers, esoteric rhythm chasers, wry art-punks, introspective drifters, and/or synthy groovers —it's always been in their own, constantly shifting image.
The band were commissioned to score the film 1/1, which follows a 20-year-old's struggles in rural Pennsylvania in a grittier riff on what a John Hughes movie might look like today. In lieu of traditional direction, Liars were apparently given "descriptive language" by director Jeremy Phillips to inspire their score ("Imagine you have a 100-piece puzzle, but you have 1000 pieces — what would that sound like?") and then set loose. The result is 15 tracks of unsettled ambience, vibing like a industrial site possessed: these instrumentals shutter and groan like I-beams writhing.
"Cottagevej" throbs with unpredictable intent, little flashes of drum destabilizing the synth-led ambience, while "Helsingor Lane" finds Angus Andrew's vocals drifting through a bleary soundscape. A few songs here even lean toward set list territory: "Liquorice" finds some sinister, devil-in-the-machine synth grooves to ride onto the dance floor.
The soundtrack was created between Liars' 2014 album Mess, and 2017's TFCF, and in that, it captures a snapshot of the band's particular fascinations around then. In some ways, it feels like a more subdued, mostly instrumental version of Mess, one where they cycle through moods and shift textures but rarely heighten them beyond their initial parameters. Still: setting mood has always been one of Liars' strengths, even if 1/1 feels more like a curio than an essential part of the canon. (Mute)