Liima: 1982 (review)

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

On their sophomore release 1982, Liima goes retro with dark, heavy synths and truly intriguing grooves.

There's no time like the night for Liima. The group is back with a second album in as many years, and while the beats are a little slower on 1982 than on last year's ii, the sounds are no less haunting. A tunnel of synths gives ample room for Casper Clausen's voice to echo, turning waves of introspection into a storm of feeling. It's an album that will leave aches in your heart and bittersweet thoughts churning in your mind -- the perfect start to a November.



(City Slang)

Release Date: 3 Nov 2017

Nostalgia features heavily in the neon electronics that lead 1982's title track, a song that spreads out in layers of flickering light on cold concrete. Liima embraces the darker side of the distinctly inorganic quality common to so much 1980s music, and "1982" comes out as a photo negative of bubblegum pop.

Liima stays largely in one dark vein for the whole album, drenching tracks like dreamy "David Copperfield" in glitter and pouring a heart full of worry into tracks like "Life is Dangerous". The tracks do vary, but there's a sense that they all belong in the same time and place, that they all sprung into existence at once. This thematic similarity is a double-edged sword; the unity makes the album's 40-minute run an immersive one, but if you aren't sold by the first track, you're never going to get there.

Fortunately, 1982 is nothing if not intriguing, and the turns that build up its atmosphere are smooth ones. The album hits a high with "2-Hearted", where rising scales defy gravity and take Liima heavenward even as Clausen sings, over and over, that "All the world is / Coming down now." The contradictions between music and lyrics allow for an artful collapse, bringing the album back to where it glides along the ground.

"Jonathan, I Can't Tell You" flows freely for a minute before Tatu Rönkkö's always balanced beats drive the music forward and tell a nebulous story colored with hints of regret. As it comes to a slow end, a small choir joins the background for some extra vocal texture, filling out the song into a satisfying penultimate ballad. Soon after, closing track "My Mind Is Yours" makes one final call out into the void, but unlike most previous tracks, looks outward instead of inward, offering to share the journey through this dark world of Liima's creation with some kindred spirit who might be waiting.

The gritty rock moments that made ii so fascinating and intricate are not quite present in the slick retro grooves of 1982, and it's easy to miss the mess. Still, there's much to be said for the finesse of 1982, and Liima never sacrifices the dark edge that makes the group's music something more than everyday synthpop or lightweight vaporwave. There is always a weight, a purpose anchoring Liima's sound and keeping it from devolving into a frenzy of meaningless loops and mania. 1982 is form, feeling, and worldbuilding all in one well-polished package, and makes for a solid sophomore release.

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