Seduced by psychology, spirituality and science fiction concepts, Peruvian geoglyphs and forward-thinking RnB production, Michael Lovett’s arrival under his NZCA/Lines moniker at gossamer synths-laden electro pop is a pleasing surprise amidst such eclecticism. Born out of a growing tiredness with guitar music and partly inspired a healthy fascination with Aaliyah, his lustrous pop take on honeyed bump and grind is a pretty blissful amalgamation of disparity. And it makes NZCA/Lines, the album, a triumph of craft and form.
A measured mix of sexless vocal robotics, cut-crystal falsettos and breathless mourning to a backdrop of delicate, programmed beats, this is an album that glides between the concertedly cold and clinical, and a simplistic joy in pop harmonies. Creating a world of dystopian landscapes, populated by lost souls and lost lovers, it’s a set that’s apocalyptic without needing any blockbuster dramatics to paint a bleak picture of a future full of roaming sentinels and desperate bio-mechanics.
Far from just being a soundtrack created for some synthetic future, though, Lovett’s diaphanous vocal isn’t all flat-line delivery. There’s some healthy deference to Depeche Mode’s muted delivery, but on tracks Moonlit Car Chase and the Cliff Martinez haze of Patrol Late Back there’s the flicker of humanity that gives NZCA/Lines’ artificial intelligence some soul. More heartbeat than time stamp, this very same organic constituent comprises the spur for the languorous slink of Okinawa Channels and the busy multi-vocal of Compass Points – the latter is a track fine enough to have Junior Boys purring in downbeat appreciation and Metronomy nodding in off-beat acceptance.
But at the heart of all of this there’s loneliness and longing which is tangible throughout, Lovett seeming to find relative solace in the measured and mechanised elements of the album. And where it’s not about the process and metronome order, Lovett’s journeying lyrics drive the distance and atmosphere of his nameless, faceless commentary.
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