10 Track, LP (2013, Siberia)
Related: Midnight Juggernauts.
In an early promotional gambit, Midnight Juggernauts anonymously distributed a YouTube clip of their new album’s second cut, ‘Ballad of the War Machine’, dressed up to appear as a videotaped Soviet-era broadcast of an unknown Russian avant-pop act’s long-forgotten hit single. As amusing as it was, as a representation of their third LP it really fell down on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.
Because Uncanny Valley isn’t particularly defined by the Eastern Bloc thematics and sonics the band claimed inspired the work. Sure, there’s the icy synths of retro horror and sci-fi soundtracks lurking in the background, but on the whole it favours the much lighter side of Midnight Juggernauts’ often revenant retro sound, furnishing something that is much closer to Italo disco or French lounge pop than gritty Soviet realism.
Turns out this is a good move. Uncanny Valley almost entirely eviscerates the kind of plodding, morose delivery that often weighed down their earlier work and could made it such a labour to listen to. Recorded in the Loire Valley, France, where the band would regularly visit a French-ass restaurant for damn croissants, the laidback charm of the place – and its music, from Serge Gainsbourg through to Daft Punk – seems to have seeped into all corners of this record, making for a much warmer, far less aloof affair than anything preceding it.
Characterised by polish and restraint, but still lent interest by the myriad synth arpeggios and guitar peels the band coax from their veritable museum of instruments, practically every track comes complete with a genuinely catchy chorus and a kind of chintzy, Eurotrash feel that makes the whole thing slide down so much easier. Standout single ‘Memorium’, accompanied by an excellent film clip depicting the history of CGI, perfectly captures that nebulous, lyrically abstruse space their strongest early material centred on but fuses it with the luxurious synth-rock groove of The Crystal Axis and adds perhaps the strongest hook they’ve ever written.
Midnight Juggernauts have led an interesting career. Early on they were right there with Cut Copy, hailed darlings of the indie-dance scene and promised global success. But rather than chase down trends, the band have seemed content to simply hone their craft, refining their cosmic electro in measured, steady releases. Perhaps they feel like residents of the interstellar vacuums they often depict, looking down on a planet that has moved on – Random Access Memories notwithstanding – to the frenzied sounds of brostep and trap.
Back here on earth, we should be happy that they’ve decided to send back this transmission from a time of discotheques and analogue synthesisers, laidback grooves and memorable hooks.
by Lawson Fletcher