A sleek synthetic sound driven by a heart of human loneliness and longing.
Reef Younis 2012
Seduced by psychology, spirituality, science fiction, Peruvian geoglyphs and forward-thinking RnB production, Michael Lovett’s arrival 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 by a healthy fascination with Aaliyah, his lustrous pop take on honeyed bump and grind is a blissful amalgamation of disparity. And it makes this eponymous album under his NZCA/Lines moniker a triumph of craft and form.
A measured mix of sexless vocal robotics, cut-crystal falsettos and breathless mourning layered on a backdrop of delicate, programmed beats, this is an album that glides between the concertedly cold 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 biomechanics.
Lovett’s diaphanous vocal, however, isn’t just a flat-line soundtrack created for some synthetic future. There’s some healthy deference to Depeche Mode’s muted delivery, but on 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 is the spur for the languorous slink of Okinawa Channels and the busy multi-vocal of Compass Points, 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, summoning real atmosphere around this album's nameless, faceless commentary.