|Studio album by Cut Copy|
|Released||4 February 2011|
|Recorded||2010; CCHQ, Christmas St
(Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
(Atlanta, Georgia, United States)
|Genre||Electropop, synthpop, indietronica, dance-rock|
|Cut Copy chronology|
|Singles from Zonoscope|
Zonoscope is the third studio album by Australian electronic music band Cut Copy, released on 4 February 2011 by Modular Recordings. Recorded in Melbourne in 2010, the album received mostly positive reviews from music critics, although less favourable reviews criticised its lack of innovation. Additionally, it reached number three on the ARIA Albums Chart.
At the ARIA Music Awards of 2011, Zonoscope won Best Dance Release and the Artisan Award for Best Cover Art, and was nominated for Album of the Year. It was also nominated for Best Dance/Electronica Album at the 54th Grammy Awards. The single "Where I'm Going" featured on the video game, FIFA 12's soundtrack.
Background and recording
The album's official title and release date were announced exclusively through Spin magazine on 2 November 2010. In an interview with musicOMH, guitarist Tim Hoey said, "I guess we finished touring In Ghost Colours, and we wanted to strip away what we'd done before and re-imagine sonically with different synths and guitars. We also wanted percussion to become more of a feature, because we had this idea of creating a rhythmic, hypnotic record where time becomes irrelevant." He explained the album's title: "It's a variety of things [...] It was an instrument for us, but it's also the lens you would use to view this kind of world. We wanted Zonoscope to represent this record." Zonoscope was recorded in a warehouse space in Fairfield, Melbourne, littered with discarded vintage recording gear and instruments. "There was no Internet in there, barely any heat, nothing, just fucking industrial Melbourne", Hoey said. "We just knew we could kind of go into there and not feel pressured. We were just kind of locked in there by ourselves, and we couldn't have had it sounding how it sounds without us going in there." In an interview with Pitchfork Media, Whitford described the album's recording as "a much more open-ended process where we just sort of went off on these more jammy tangents where we'd just sit there and play stuff for 10 minutes and see what happened—we might end up putting out a 10-disc box set of all the weird extended jams we did on this record. There's more of a repetitive, hypnotic, rhythmic aspect to a lot of the tracks."
The band had the idea of using a vocal ensemble while listening to David Bowie's Young Americans (1975) and Primal Scream's Screamadelica (1991). Hoey stated, "[W]hen we started talking to Ben Allen about mixing the record we mentioned that to him and he knew a vocal ensemble in Atlanta that he'd be able to get for us [...] They were amazingly talented singers and they just helped heighten the epic moments on the record which is something we really wanted to try. They also seemed to compliment Dan's voice really well. We didn't necessarily want them to be the focus, just to work in harmony with what Dan was doing and it was amazing to see it work out so well." Regarding the album's influences, Whitford stated, "I was obsessed with Fleetwood Mac's Tusk while working on this record—a lot of the Lindsey Buckingham tracks have a proto-80s African feel. Also Talking Heads, Slave to the Rhythm by Grace Jones, and Malcolm McLaren's Duck Rock album. And a lot of acid house era, post-rave indie music like Happy Mondays and Primal Scream." The album artwork uses an image by the late Japanese photomontage artist Tsunehisa Kimura titled Toshi Wa Sawayakana Asa Wo Mukaeru (meaning The City Welcomes a Fresh Morning), which depicts New York City being engulfed in a waterfall. "We saw this representing what the album is about, a tussle between synthetic and organic instruments. It isn't a destruction of the old world, more a creation of the new—it looks archaic, but at the same time it's timeless, referencing music from the past", Hoey said of the artwork.
|The A.V. Club||A-|
|Los Angeles Times|||
Zonoscope received positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 71, based on 31 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". Spencer Kornhaber of The A.V. Club wrote that "Cut Copy's music successfully achieves synesthesia on its own throughout [the album]" and that "each arpeggiator pattern, glow-worm guitar line, and percussive thump on Zonoscope bobs in the mix as a luxuriously distinct spot of sound. And rather than solely packing the lushness into radio-ready structures as it did on 2008's In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy often lets the arrangements ride, most spectacularly on the six-minute round-and-round rave of the opener, 'Need You Now.'" Tim Sendra of Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars and stated that "[t]here isn't a single weak track to be found, and though could have easily done so with no side effects, the group didn't just remake Ghost, they made some subtle alterations here and there to their approach", adding that "[t]he only thing that keeps Zonoscope from being the juggernaut that In Ghost Colours was, is that it lacks a song as drop-dead brilliant as 'Hearts on Fire' (though 'Where I'm Going' comes close) and it includes the clunky, somewhat corny-sounding 'Corner of the Sky'", although "[o]ne tiny misstep doesn't derail the album." Spin's Mikael Wood scored the album eight out of ten, noting it "catches Cut Copy in a pop-attuned mode they've only hinted at in the past" and that it "works best at its most focused and extroverted, as on the disco-glammy 'Where I'm Going' and 'Need You Now,' a swooning rush of E-fueled harmony."
Kevin Ritchie of Canadian magazine Now found that the album "teeters on the threshold between a classic pop sensibility and deep affection for expansive dance music", while dubbing it Cut Copy's "most textured and rhythmically complex record, and also irresistible in its emotional simplicity." Slant Magazine's Matthew Cole gave the album three-and-a-half out of five stars and expressed that "Zonoscope shows every sign of being a transitional record, and as such, the most significant test of its merits won't be its ability to generate singles as exhilarating as 'Hearts on Fire,' but rather the possibilities it opens up for the band's future. Judged by the music here, which often sounds self-consciously mature in comparison to the band's previous work, Cut Copy understands that they're at a crossroads." In a review for Los Angeles Times, Margaret Wappler commended the band for their "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." She continued: "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." Pitchfork Media's Tom Breihan commented, "Compared to the last two albums, Zonoscope has precious little guitar crunch, which makes it hard to even call Cut Copy a dance-rock band anymore. And that's for the best—not just because that combination seems like a less thrilling prospect in 2011 than perhaps it once did, but also because Cut Copy have the architecture of dance music down perfectly and the confidence to execute the genre's moves with absolute precision."
PopMatters reviewer Timothy Gabriele opined that "Zonoscope goes against the grain and against the halo-soaked yet tightly compressed fist-pumping suggestions of 'Where I'm Going' and churns out an album that is, in parts, loose and jammy. Which is not to say the band has lost its interest in shimmer. There's still tons of twinkling tidbits lingering about", namely "Take Me Over" and "Alisa". The Guardian's Dave Simpson gave Zonoscope three out of five stars and felt that the album is "almost like a mix tape, taking snatches of recognisable songs and blending them together into their own tracks with the aim of creating a greater whole [...] This approach won't win the Aussie electro pranksters awards for originality, but they do it with enough sleight of hand to stay ahead of the lawyers, and it's a lot of fun." Rolling Stone's Jody Rosen noticed the influence of bands such as Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and New Order on the album, calling it "impressive ventriloquism, and the songs are catchy. But the lovelorn sentiments are generic, and singer Dan Whitford's baritone drone adds little to the proceedings." Rob Webb of the NME rated the album five out of ten and wrote, "After the ubiquitous presence of '80s-indebted music last year, a follow-up [to In Ghost Colours] with little stylistic deviation isn't a thrilling proposition: 'Take Me Over' steals a hook from fellow Australians Men At Work, adds 'ooh-ooh' backing vocals and just about gets away with it. 'Where I'm Going' packs in a Kasabian-aping chorus, while expansive 15-minute closer 'Sun God' hints at what might have been—namely an excursion into less familiar territory."
Pitchfork Media placed the album at number twenty-eight on its list of The Top 50 Albums of 2011 and concluded, "Above all, Cut Copy showed that they know how to weave new songs from familiar touch-points and that they have the songwriting chops to make the patchwork feel of a piece."
"Where I'm Going", the first taste of the album, was said to "[veer] into a more conventional-sounding, guitar-bass-drums combination and seemed to indicate a departure from the sleek, electronic-laced sound of In Ghost Colours." Hoey said of the song, "I knew it might throw people a little bit, but at the end of the day it still sounded like a Cut Copy song [...] It's got a pop music element, which runs throughout every Cut Copy song or album. I thought it was actually great to put out first from the record." The track premiered on triple j's Tom and Alex breakfast show on 16 July 2010 and was offered as a free download on the band's official website. It was also released on iTunes on 17 August 2010 and as a limited-edition 7" vinyl on 20 August. A different version of "Where I'm Going" made the final cut, which Hoey said was "more like the original vision we had for that song: more chant-y, kind of tribal, and probably less pop than the version that came out a couple of months ago."
"Take Me Over" was released as the official lead single on 23 November 2010, which Hoey described as "certainly one of the more pop moments from the album" in an interview with The Music Network. The song reached number ten on the ARIA Hitseekers chart. A music video for the single was filmed by Kris Moyes in Sydney, but it was never released due to production delays. "Need You Now" was released as the album's second single on 25 February 2011, with an accompanying video directed by Keith Schofield. "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution" followed as the third single on 7 August 2011.
All songs written and composed by Cut Copy.
|1.||"Need You Now"||6:09|
|2.||"Take Me Over"||5:50|
|3.||"Where I'm Going"||3:34|
|4.||"Pharaohs & Pyramids"||5:28|
|5.||"Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution"||4:17|
|6.||"Strange Nostalgia for The Future"||2:06|
|7.||"This Is All We've Got"||4:43|
|9.||"Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat"||4:37|
|10.||"Corner of the Sky"||5:29|
|Deluxe edition bonus disc and iTunes bonus video|
|1.||"Artificial Interpreter (The Making of Zonoscope)"||21:07|
|Australia||4 February 2011||Modular Recordings|
|Germany||7 February 2011||Universal Music|
|United Kingdom||Modular Recordings|
|United States||8 February 2011|
|Sweden||9 February 2011|
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