Dystopian landscapes filled with vacant wanderers, absent lovers, and moonlit car-chases litter Michael Lovett’s first Lp as NZCA/LINES. Its something of a concept album told from various perspectives, foremost the first person but also at times, namely on Atoms & Axes, from that of a faceless third-person propelling his hapless protégée in the pursuit of the girl/lost-love/siren he seeks. In an interview we did with Lovett back in 2011 he talks a bit about this over-arching concept and the narrative he hoped the record would convey:
Lovett: “The Nazca Lines are an ancient series of geoglyphs in Peru, where a thin layer of surface rock has been scraped away to reveal the lighter earth beneath – this simple technique allowing people to ‘draw’ huge images only visible from the air. So there are simultaneously two landscapes happening. From ground level it is impossible to detect the drawings, whilst from the air the terrain assumes a radically different character. This idea inspired the over-arching narrative of the NZCA/LINES record. Every track relates to New Magnetic North, an alternate set of magnetic poles that are continually shifting. Like these Peruvian plains revealing their secrets from the air, cities and places are defined by where the compass points at any given moment.”
With a concept that bizzare it was always a possibility that the album would wind up getting tangled in the landscape, losing sight of the songs themselves in order to fulfill Lovett’s grand-fantasy. Somehow though, despite the satisfyingly weird theme, the songs themselves are, with the exception of a few interludes (the choral ‘Am Travel Approach’ being a key example), perfectly independent slices of r&b influenced pop. ‘Compass Points’ and ‘Okinawa Channels’, the most accessible of the tracks, would even fit quite comfortably onto a Radio 1 play list. It is therefore not just a success as a concept (Lovett’s a bit of a master at conjuring up hyper-real landscapes with his precisely wheeling lyrics) but also as an album. It’s the best thing we’ve heard so far this year and, in part thanks to the depth of the narrative, infinitely listenable. Well worth splashing out for.
For Fans of: Passion Pit/ Metronomy/ Music
Highlights: Base64 Love / Work / Compass Points