Wireless World by Warm DigitsRelease date: August 10, 2017
Label: Memphis Industries
We’re a little bit late to the party here but I found this beauty hiding at the bottom of the pile and it’s just way too good to leave down there, what with the encroaching season of lists and ideal gifts so on. Newcastle’s WARM DIGITS third album ‘Wireless World’ sees them streamline their sound, making a small but firm step towards pop. Their last album was part of a museum commission and concerned itself with the construction of the Tyne and Wear metro system so they’ve not had to come too far to get a bit more mainstream. The tracks are tighter and brighter, they’ve even brought in some vocalists for a few songs.
The Warm Digits sound is an ecstatic, uptempo blend of clattering motorik beats, Moroder pulses, warm synths, a touch of banging techno and sometimes surprisingly noisy guitar. They skilfully blend these elements in a unique and elegant fashion, there’s no mud or mush in their sound – every note, shimmer and beat arrives with clarity and a satisfying rightness even while it’s all rushing at you at a hundred miles an hour. Staring out the window of a speeding train at the rhythms and changes of the landscape really is an ideal image for it. Their songs are bursting with ideas and impatient to share them, they’re intense, rattling and glorious. And it’s breathtaking how long they can keep this up without choking the tracks or toppling them over. The title track is a perfect example, with more than a nod to New Order, a lovely guitar melody unwinds slowly across perfect synths and an ever ascending headlong rush when out of nowhere another great synth or guitar line will move to centre stage, and then another, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
It plunges us straight into one of a handful of short intermission tracks, ‘Always On’ is a pool of warm effects drowning out a frantic drum solo like something between a sound check gear test and a clattering noise ending to a live set. I have to admit I was a little dubious of the wisdom of bringing in vocalists but in all four cases it works and they sit well within the album as a whole. Long standing ally and friend of the band Peter Brewis of Field Music takes on the first vocal for ‘End Times’ pondering current anxieties about imminent catastrophe over a tough machine funk that even has me thinking of Daft Punk at a couple of moments. Mia la Metta of Beards brings great vocals to ‘Better Friction’ which has squiggling synth lines and the heart bursting giddy rush of The Go! Team.
‘Growth of Raindrops’ is great, has Sarah Cracknell singing about television and radio and a softly spoken bit where her voice sinks down into the track which is enough for me. Finally, Devon Sproule’s turn on ‘The Rumble And The Tremor’ is a damaged disco stomper. It follows the album’s longest and wildest track ‘Fracking Blackpool’ the two linked by concerns about the potential costs of energy sources. “The future is paid for by the rumble and the tremor“. There’s a strong feel of utopian futurism in Warm Digits, a primary coloured but vaguely hauntological sense of nostalgia for a time when technology was going to make the world a better place for all. That’s tempered here by an awareness it hasn’t quite played out that way. The title ‘Wireless World‘ neatly circumscribes the modern period from when the radio was known as the wireless to the wirelessly interconnected everything of now and the album represents an “attempt to make music from our experience of this present that teeters between celebration and devastation”. That makes it sound a lot less fun than it is. The harsh truth may well be that we’re headed for an ugly crash but this album is a thrilling ride.