By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
The mere presence of guitar would make Languis more than just another pretty noise in the swelling number of post-Autechre voluptuaries issuing forth from romantic electronica's enchanted forest. Same with their wispy vocals and buttery, serpent-in-the-garden bass. But it's the playfully deliberate (and deliberately playful) way this Pasadena-based duo marries these elements with meticulously crafted electronics that really gives Untied its intergalactic Nature Channel flavor. And it's what puts this fourth Languis recording ahead of the beauty-pursuing pack.
Take the album opener, "Waterfall." The track begins tranquilly enough, all cascading synths and giggling, phosphorescent minnows. Then, suddenly, a school of guitar-generated flying fish comes coursing through, upping the noise factor by a few hundred percent and leaving us to marvel at the joyful commotion. Languis's Alejandro Cohen and Marcos Chloca, both Argentine expatriates, aren't afraid to tackle big-picture scenarios, either, as "Strip Me out of My Time" proves. Starting with distant, echo-magnified clicks, quiet pipe organ, and whispered vocals, the song slowly builds into a dub-inflected epic that's the sonic equivalent of a nebula money shot viewed through the Hubble.
So constant is Languis's fidelity to invented nature that even their glitchcraft sounds downright critterly on songs like "Dishes." And, though electronically generated, the rhythms on Untied conform to organic standards throughout. "Night Collider," for example, sounds as though it's being driven by a pair of tap-dancing palominos, while the ebullient tribalism of "A Leaf on My Shoulder" suggests that Cohen and Chloca might be harboring a couple of Ewoks in their hard drive.
All this rampant biomorphism renders Languis pretty much peerless. In fact, the only kindred spirits who come to mind are fellow artificial-life researchers (and Animal Collective core duo) Avey Tare and the Panda Bear. Granted, Cohen and Chloca have yet to manifest any signs of the volcanic activity that's become a trademark of their East Coast counterparts. They also tend to dwell more in the digital domain, and, goodness knows, they're nowhere near as liberal with the pixie dust. But Languis easily equal Avey and the Panda in their inexhaustible resourcefulness, their refusal to conform to genre constraints, and, most of all, in their profound reverence for the natural world. Plus Untied is more fun than a bed of tongues--and what could be more natural than that?