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Album review: Cut Copy's 'Zonoscope'

February 15, 2011 |  1:10 pm

Cutcopy With its third album, “Zonoscope,” the Austrialian act Cut Copy has established itself as something like the Down Under version of Phoenix. Like those French stylists, frontman Dan Whitford and his fellow pop pirates have an impeccable sense of juxtaposition, placing tricky and lush psychedelica alongside the kind of big-screen pop dynamics that have turned them into international festival darlings.

Sometimes the sound that Cut Copy cultivates is as fruity and fizzy as a raspberry soda, but with an underpinning of something chilly and unsettled. On “Take Me Over,” quick-pulsed African percussion mixes with a bass line that amusingly shares just a smidge of DNA with Men at Work’s “Down Under,” but shadowy synths flit underneath, casting darkness. The song is push and pull -- between escapist vocal harmonies and earthy bass --  with an uneasy resolution.

While it’s clear from “Zonoscope” that Cut Copy has been studying the textured polyrhythmic soundscapes that Brian Eno lent to Talking Heads on “Remain in Light,” there are other influences as well. “Where I’m Going” is '80s power pop, with its anthemic chorus, but painted in washed-out, trippy tones from the Byrds and other '60s radio pioneers. The 15-minute closing track, "Sun God," synthesizes house music's intoxicating loop of rhythmic patterns with Air's adventurous sense of space -- it's begging for the requisite light show, the flashes of neon bathing a throbbing crowd at Coachella.

There aren’t too many new stones in the pop garden that Cut Copy overturns, but what it roots out is expertly arranged, creating pastiches that raise ghosts from the past while capturing a spirit that’s utterly now.

-- Margaret Wappler

Cut Copy
Three stars