Forward, ever forward for Switzerland’s Young Gods, now safely ensconced within the Ipecac empire, a haven for those who despise comfort. Thus, guitars have been jettisoned wholesale in favor of a more futuristic ideal for living. Franz Treichler’s vocals sound like a more Euro Brendan Perry from Dead Can Dance, that same sort of immortal weariness and wisdom, while Alain Monod and Bernard Trontin release rioting electronics and live wires snaking back and forth dangerously.
“Lucidogen” is that rare breed of song, the perfect highway song: watch the soft black concrete and anonymous orange lights recede and approach simultaneously, weave in and out among the sleepers. It’s exhilaration without hedonism, only purpose and drive. “Hey Supersonic” samples a brief moment of The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” as a jumping off point for a high-NRG style big beat mantra perfect for passing on the outside lane on a 6-lane overpass in Atlanta at 3:45 am, just ghost rattles and exhaust curls. “Laisse Couler (Le Son)” explores more subliminal and dub-heavy avenues, reminding me of Bill Laswell’s later endeavors and the short-lived but promising isolationism movement. Shuffling, muffled beats, treated electronics played on submerged speakers and backwards-tracked guitars with immaculately whispered English and French vocals. It all happens at the back of your brain, the response is in the base of your spinal chord, the rest is too subtle to be detected. The rest of the song passes through you like a lost ghost. “Attends” moves like a skipping record or a tape loop or a conveyor belt, the same white noise instrumental motif repeats again and again, with Treichler gasping along in distorted French (similar in affect to Tricky’s Pre-Millennium Tension). “In The Otherlands” might as well be the aural equivalent of swirling your fingers around in the River Styx; it reminds me of Skinny Puppy at their most ethereal (think “Warlock” and “Rivers Edge”) but less tormented and self-immolating. There’s more of the gravitas of a pocket digitized Dead Can Dance or Leonard Cohen.
“The Sound In Your Eyes” is all Depeche Mode strength, avant-pop — this stuff can move dancelfloors into a frenzy as easily as it can move fingers to scratchable chins. The beats rise and fall at a frantic pace, while noise intrudes at every crack in the system. “Toi Du Monde” is a simmering chill-out house track with a beautiful vocal turn from Treichler, whispering sensually in French as electronics splatter on the canvas like tiny little dribbles from a paintbrush and the drumbeats began to seem like the exhalation of air that accompanies your own body’s movements in time to the beat. “Love 2.7” is a fabulous closer: burbling electronics softly ebb and flow in an amniotic dreamworld of sampled conversations and laughter bliss in and out in the orbit of Oval’s first album.
It’s always pleasing to see innovators continue to shed skins and, well, innovate after nearly two decades of boundary-breaking. Second Nature is Kraftwerk’s autobahn after a major highway reconstruction project; I’m talking new lanes, overpasses, toll booths, bright yellow lines, the whole fucking deal. Take a drive.
Ipecac Records: www.ipecac.com