On their self-titled EP released in January, Love of Diagrams flashed their unique ability to suggest any number of post-punk luminaries without inviting any obvious direct comparison. Mosaic, their first full-length released on Matador, contains plenty of tracks in the same vein, blistering, tightly wound distillations of the past thirty years of rock and roll, but also shows them to be capable of composing slowed down, melodic brooders. The production, handled by Bob Weston at Steve Albini’s Electric Audio studio, emphasizes the Melbourne trio’s adeptness at creating music with a measured immediacy, sometimes claustrophobic and at others open enough to allow them to indulge their more experimental tendencies.
“Form and Function” kicks the album off with a hyper-charged jolt of spastically reserved guitar riffs and jittery vocal snippets. Uncharacteristically, Luke Horton handles the bulk of the vocal duties on this track and characteristically, in its precision and sustained edge his guitar playing calls to mind that of Carrie Brownstein, though he seems more inclined to let it wash out into moments of static and feedback, as evidenced throughout the album. As “Form and Function” builds momentum, it becomes clear that while maintaining an abrasive visceral quality, Love of Diagrams are also capable of being emotionally suggestive in a way that many similarly aggressive bands are not. They lay claim to a particularly resonant strand of thoughtful, restrained brutality.
Most of the lyrics on “Mosaic” have an impressionistic feel and do not create, but instead suggest, a cohesive dramatic scenario which relies on the juxtaposition of images and ideas. On “Pace and the Patience” Horton and Antonia Sellbach engage in a mercurial display of call and response vocals, centered on her insistent repetition of “You came in with flying colors.” It isn’t especially important what she means in a literal sense, but rather that these words seem perfectly matched to the bombastic interplay of the instruments. Though, at other times the songs feel as if they would be more affecting if the lyrical substance was upped a bit. There is nothing wrong with taking a minimalistic approach, in fact it suits them perfectly, but in the future I think it is possible that they will be able to tighten and filter what words they include to better complement the explosiveness of their music.
But already Love of Diagrams has made great strides in defining their own sound. “The Pyramid” begins with a moody, mid-tempo surge of lacerating guitars and quickly locks into a controlled tension reminiscent of Joy Division. When Sellbach starts singing one cannot help being reminded of the B-52s, but the B-52s somehow circumscribed by the feminine dynamism of The Raincoats. All of this together, and more, has been taken in by Love of Diagrams and then sublimated in the creation of their own persona. They manage to seem accessible at the same time that they delve into the more remote sonic depths of movements like No-Wave. Out of the discordant shards of any number of influences, Love of Diagrams have managed to craft an album that threatens to knock you on your ass before it brings you in close to absorb their engaging departures into noise and bass-heavy melodicism.
Tracks like “Ms. V Export” and “What Was I Supposed to Do” trade in the density of the band’s more caustic compositions for a more pensive and distraught facade. They are damaged, repetitive pop songs that revel in a sense of control lost, confusion gained. What they do not make evident still manages to be unmistakably present. And while it may be true that none of the songs on Mosaic will invite as broad on audience as “No Way Out,” which even made an appearance on The O.C., songs like “All the Time” show the band moving forward, constantly honing their sound and becoming more and more engaging as they do so.
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Kaleidoscope
The B-52s – The B-52s