Cut Copy: Zonoscope (Album Review)

Ever since their bouncy 2004 debut Bright Like Neon Love, Melbourne-bred electro-pop rockers Cut Copy have always remained faithful to the original, ’80’s-inspired synth-pop sound developed on such songs as “Saturdays” and “Future.”

2008’s follow-up, In Ghost Colours, found the band working to with complex new instrumentation, incorporating angelic choirs, distorted guitar riffs and heaven-sent soundscapes. Crunchier cuts like “Lights & Music” and “Hearts on Fire” demonstrated Cut Copy’s increasing New Wave influence, yet ultimately remained true to their underlying pop penchant.

Zonoscope–the band’s third studio album, to be released on February 8–finds Cut Copy taking their sound to still newer heights. Namely, outer space.

“I know we’re going crazy, but I need you now,” lead singer Dan Whitford sadly croons above a series of signature Cut Copy echoed coos and hazy, ambient electronica on the chorus of the album’s first single and opening track, “Need You Now.”

The song is a solid representation of what lies ahead: Intergalactic bleeps and blips, tribal disco rhythms, bleak lyricism and atmospheric sounds recalling that of French electro-master M83 all come together to texture the space-pop opus that is Zonoscope, Cut Copy’s most seamless and cohesive collection yet.

“Pharoahs & Pyramids,” another highlight on the album, finds the band working on top of a dazzling disco synth pattern, an abundance of hand-claps and bright, light electronica, somewhat reminiscent of Hercules & Love Affair‘s ’90’s House revivalism, while songs like “Take Me Over,” “Corner of the Sky” and the Beach Boys-esque “Where I’m Going” all recall the bouncy pop revelry of the band’s origins.

Aside from the album’s catchier cuts, it’s clear that Cut Copy have also decided to take a few chances and push their musical limits beyond the confines of a typical track on Zonoscope: “Strange Nostalgia for the Future,” for instance, works against a strangely looped string of organic electronica reminiscent of something one might hear on Sigur RósTakk…, while “Sun God,” the album’s epic 16-minute tribal closer, plays like a 2011 update to Donna Summer‘s iconic disco number, “I Feel Love.”

“Please, please, please, won’t you give your love to me?” Whitford repeats again and again as the track slowly builds on top of grooving synthesizers and a driving percussion (plus cowbell!), ultimately giving way to spine-tingling waves of ambient rhythms and danceable synth grooves. It’s gorgeous, to say the least.

With dreamy electronica production and sublime, hook-filled pop songcraft, it seems the sky is not the limit for Cut Copy–they’re too busy exploring the stars.

“Take Me Over”

“Take Me Over (Thee Loving Hand Remix by Tim Goldsworthy)”

Zonoscope will be released on February 8. (iTunes)

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