Listen to any of Cut Copy’s three full-length records — particularly this year’s striking, shimmering “Zonoscope” — and you’ll be overcome by a sense of exotic locale.
It’s not just because the synth-heavy, super-literate band hails from down under, or even because it finds inspiration in films set in fantastical locations, like the Amazon of Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo.” At heart, deep down, the guys in the band are out for much more than just recording and performing top-notch dance music. They’re in it for the adventure.
“We decided to go to a whole bunch of places we’d never really been to,” said guitarist Tim Hoey of the current tour. “We’re very fortunate that we can actually go to Oklahoma and these places I’d never thought I’d get to see as a tourist, let alone with the band. It’s cool going to these new places, buying records and meeting new people and stuff like that. It’s really important to us.”
So important that it directs their songwriting and production, from intimate electronic compositions to lyrics about running through a primal, jungle heathendom. Their sense of setting is even clear to the sonically challenged. “Zonoscope”’s cover depicts a waterfall overflowing through skyscrapers in a massive metropolis.
It’s a sense of fantasy they’ve captured and catered to music’s dance and electronica genres with so much natural ease that it manifested a 15-minute track, “Sun God” as “Zonoscope”’s grand, emphatic finale. It’s an ambitious quarter-hour of music that tracks its way through a euphoric, early’ 90s acid-house vibe that, inexplicably, never runs out of gas.
“We wanted to capture that sensation where you put your headphones on walking around the city, or in your bedroom or out at the club, and you completely immerse in it,” Hoey said of the track. “The length really becomes kind of irrelevant. It’s like it could go for another half an hour and have the exact same effect.”
Hoey said when Cut Copy is done touring, the act will return to Australia to record its next album, but that immediate surroundings will be changed for sonic purposes.
“That space was specific to what we wanted the sound of ‘Zonoscope’ to be, and that helped shape the structure of the record, the sound of the record, everything about it. So when we start the next one, we’ll wipe the slate clean again,” he said. “We’d like to do the same thing where we work on it ourselves and find a place that’s inspiring to work in.”
Rearrangement, re-purposing and re-appropriation are the vehicles that drive Cut Copy’s artistry, by drawing from an earlier time — the late ’70s and early ’80s — when the extent of purpose for synthesizer technology wasn’t yet fully realized.
“There’s something so warm and beautiful about those old synthesizers now,” he said. “So the real interesting part is using more modern production techniques on them, and to take them somewhere new.”
Photo by Timothy Saccenti