The Apple Drop by Liars album review by Gregory Adams for Northern Transmissions

Mute

7.4

Liars

The Apple Drop

As far as visual metaphors go, the video for Liars’ “Sekwar” is on-point, if heavy-handed. For over 20 years now, Liars’ Angus Andrew has transmogrified elements of post-punk, experimental, and electronic music into an ever-evolving body of work. It’s natural, then, to find the artist setting off flares within a cavernous abyss in the “Sekwar” music video, ultimately taking himself on his next journey. The Apple Drop, the outfit’s tenth full-length release, still touches on some of Liars’ finest points, while propelling Andrew into bold new sonic landscapes.

Whether contorting through early ‘00s dance-punk (as on 2001 debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top), electro-skewered dissonance (see 2004’s “There’s Always Room on the Broom” single), or communal drum circle rhythms (take your pick from 2006’s aptly titled Drum’s Not Dead LP), Liars have always been great at laying down a hypnotic groove. That’s likewise the case all over The Apple Drop. “The Start” is all creeping prog dread, hinging decrepit bass fuzz, post-Carpenter synth arpeggiation, and Andrew’s multi-layered moans around a two-note minor key motif; “Slow and Inward” cycles through intoxicating pizzicato string work and tremolo-heavy guitar effects to great, baroque effect; the cyclical horror of “My Pulse to Ponder” ramps up the record’s nastiness with an efficiently
hooky, Cramps-like sleaze.

While echoing moments of Liars’ history, songs like “Sekwar” and the lush, bass-rippling “From What the Never Was” also bring to mind former tourmates Radiohead’s Kid A/Amnesiac period. That said, the record still certainly feels like Liars, owing to Andrew’s signature range of low-blown drawls and discomfiting falsettos. With “Sekwar” in mind, an ornate yet jarringly twitchy backdrop of skittered synths and off-kilter beatwork is framed against Andrew’s half-spoken journeyman’s manifesto (“They told me I’m a juiced-up, worn-out sad sack / And I can’t figure out what I’m trying to do here”). But even while the mesmerizing beat on “Sekwar” loops into existential infinitum, some of the song’s most affecting sounds are arguably the precious, yet unkempt piano noodlings near its finale.

Liars’ dedication to groove is unshakeable, though there are likewise some less rhythm-locked moments on The Apple Drop. Following an introductory synth drone and various delay-slathered noises, for instance, “Star Search” strips its midsection down to a diseased saloon piano and Andrew’s wonderfully uncomfortable high range musings on, perhaps, the confines of celebrity (“You can forget your job/You can forget your life/You’re gonna be a star/That’s all you ever are”). “New Planets New Undoings” is a more freeform finale of piano and vocoded vocal lunacy.

2017’s TFCF and the following year’s Titles With The Word Fountain were Andrew’s artistic reaction to Liars co-founder Aaron Hemphill’s departure from the project—the cover art for each found Andrew dressed in a wedding gown, a comment on the marriage-like aspect of creative partnerships. Though he forged ahead solo for those projects, he went into The Apple Drop with more groupthink in mind. “My goal was to create beyond my abilities – something bigger than myself,” he explains in a press statement. “For the first time, I embraced collaboration from an early stage, allowing the work of others to influence the work of my own.”

Surrounding himself with the crack team of avant-garde jazz drummer Laurence Pike (his lean, lock- groove on “Big Appetite” and the more impressionistic funk of “Leisure War” are top-notch), multi- instrumentalist Cameron Deyell, and lyricist Mary Pearson Andrew did wonders for Liars’ latest. Andrew cracked the flare, but it couldn’t hurt to bring a few more Liars along for the ride.

Order Apple Drop by Liars HERE