Wires Under Tension: Replicant

Wires Under Tension toss us into a world of majestic, neon-lit intensity that is, as the album title suggests, oddly familiar.

Wires Under Tension


UK Release: 2012-12-10
Label: Western Vinyl
US Release Date: 2012-11-13

There is a sense of anticipation that is created in the opening moments of Wires Under Tension’s new record Replicant. It is difficult to build tension this early in a record when the listener does not even really known what they are anticipating, but the good folks over at Wires Under Tension pull it off. When the storm clouds finally coalesce and the affective, unsettling introductory vocal sample reaches its conclusion we are plunged into big, showy world of loops, strings, and electronic melody that is both insistent and comfortable. The driving force behind all of this is clearly percussionist Theo Metz; his banging and clanging anchor the rest of the auditory barrage, giving it purpose and groove. Amidst all of the tinkling, squawking, and wooshing, vocal samples dart in and out of these tracks like friendly voices in the mind of someone in the throes of a not all-together unpleasant psychotic episode. These tracks are driving and persistent; they continue pushing forward, giving the listener precious little time to catch her breath. This is big, dramatic music, but fun and inviting at the same time.

Now there is really no getting around the fact that the two gentlemen who comprise Wires Under Tension wear their influences on their sleeves. I am going to identify three major influences that, for me at least, are unavoidably apparent on Replicant: Battles, Tortoise, and Until the Dawn Heals Us era M83. Battles bequeath to Wires Under Tension their bouncy, booming, percussive sense of joy and playfulness. There are numerous jazzy breakdowns and moments of loopy vertigo that remind the listener unmistakably of the mighty, much-beloved Tortoise. The M83 influence can be felt most clearly in the atmospheric vocal samples and the sweeping, epic electronic landscapes that make the listener feel as if she is soaring above some majestic cyber-punk landscape, not unlike the opening scene to Blade Runner, which was apparently a major inspiration to this particular piece of work.

Indeed, Replicant sometimes feels like an all-too appropriate title of this album; there are a few too many moments on this record that sound like someone else, and not quite enough that sound distinctly like Wires Under Tension. This feels like one of those “work in progress” type of albums where a talented band or musician is still learning to assimilate their influences without imitating them too slavishly. Most really great bands put out at least one or two records like this before really nailing their sound and defining themselves, including most of the bands mentioned above. I actually really dig Replicant; if I were a gambling man and there were betting parlors dorky enough to bet on such things, I would put money down on the premise that Wires Under Tension’s follow up to Replicant packs a much more distinctive punch than its predecessor. There is also a '90s hip-hop, IDM sort of vibe going on here, not unlike Plaid or Fridge or even DJ Shadow. It is important to note that I am a big fan of pretty much all of the influences that I have identified here; I would bet that my music collection and the collections of the boys in Wires Under Tension have some distinct similarities.

Music like this sometimes takes itself way too seriously and ends up being dull and pretentious. Replicant is playful, pretty, and never boring. The fact that Wires Under Tension are a duo makes this record even more impressive; they do a great deal without the benefits of a full band. So once Wires Under Tension put away their favorite records for awhile, head back to the rehearsal space, and pound out some tracks that really refine their sound, they will be the ones doing the influencing.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.