A bold, vivacious return from the synth pop artist...

Some artists get inspiration for a record from falling in love, grief, or a big break up. For Michael Lovett’s synth-pop project, NZCA LINES, the third album’s inspiration was the latter - but not in the traditional sense.

Chaotic and bold, ‘Pure Luxury’ is a disco-meets-rave for the end of the world that’s rooted in anger over the breakup of not a partner, but of Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf. Since Lovett first debuted the project in 2012 (which has gone from a solo gig to a trio with the help of Charlotte Hatherley of Ash and Sarah Jones of Hot Chip), the music has always been galactic and sci-fi-inspired, but given the grim and dystopian state of the world since the band’s last release in 2016, reality is currently is scary enough to influence a nine-track record.

Synths and 80’s rhythms are still at the core of the music, but ‘Pure Luxury’ dives into more R&B grooves and slick basslines than the previous records. There’s newfound restless energy, beating quickly like Lovett is almost out of breath. Opening with the Prince-esque self-titled track, Lovett explores his frustration with consumerism singing “Scented oils, expensive sheets / It’s all about who you meet,” with a sense of urgency in the fast-paced tune. The drums act as the backbone, steadily picking up as though Lovett is racing against the clock to find a deeper meaning and solve the world’s problems before it’s too late.

The sense that time is running out is present throughout the album. There’s still elements of the sub zero synth pop that were present in the NZCA LINES’ first two albums, most evident in tracks like ‘Take This Apart’ and ‘For Your Love.’ The latter finds its groove in silky synths, strings, and piano riffs, with a relaxed rhythm that’s pulled together by Lovett’s sultry vocals as he tries to fix a broken relationship. The deeper themes of climate change and the ever-changing world weave into the breakup track as Lovett admits, “Baby I’m not afraid of change / Everything real is swept away.”

The album might be inspired by grey and harsh reality, but it doesn’t go the obvious route with slow-burn and somber-toned tracks. Instead, ‘Pure Luxury’ still remains anthemic and rave-worthy with its vibrant rhythms—the tracks just happen to have deep lyrics. ‘Larsen,’ the most political track, balances introspective lyrics about the environment with bubbly and upbeat synths. There’s no hidden meaning in the track, as Lovett raising important points about climate change, asking “Fukushima in the water poisoning the food we eat / Comfort in denial, 1.5 or probably 2 degrees / Don’t you want to save your daughter / From the world that you created for her / Don’t you want to save us all?” When an issue is as big as climate change, there’s no point in going around it, it has to be faced head-on.

There's a lot of emotions running throughout the album, frustration and anger simmering beneath the glossy electro-pop tracks, but they never boil over the surface. Throughout the record, we're left waiting for the big finale, one big anthem to hold onto, but it never quite arrives.

‘Pure Luxury’ is a reminder of all the things that are wrong with our society, but it does so in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Even when there doesn’t look like there’s any hope left for the socio-political climate, NZCA LINES has one lesson to teach, which is that ‘Tonight Is All That Really Matters.’ The closing track puts a positive spin on the state of the world, leaving listeners with some wisdom as he sings: “Cos when you think about it / Tonight, tonight / Is all that really matters / As long as we keep dancing.”

Keep dancing indeed.

8/10

Words: Caroline Edwards

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