When reading a band’s name for the first time, a certain image comes to mind. The individual words aren’t seen as single entities but as a whole and the whole is meant to generate emotion and thought, whether negative or positive. For Wires Under Tension, their name implies precisely the texture of music to be expected: something kaleidoscopic and prophetic. The duo, consisting of violinist Christopher Tignor and drummer Theo Metz, has worked to produce a transcendental poly-layered experience with their debut album Light Science.
Using the prefix “poly-” helps to imply that an unaccountable number of sonic planes exist and are explorable. The layers of instruments on the album, ranging from manic and powerful percussion to lonely horns and violins to paranoid electric pianos, combine efforts to generate an image of strange fight-or-flight occurrences in life. Light Science’s dynamic music rises and falls through moments of many different genres of music; something post-rock crosses the ears while the next moment provides listeners with something jazzy, electronic or compositional. It is the variety in each song and the smooth flow between all of the different parts that make this truly worthwhile. And because vocals are left out of the picture, finding an influential voice within the music is purely interpretive, allowing for an active listen.
When the first song, “Electricity Turns Them On”, opens, Vangelis-esque qualities are immediately noticed. Think the eerie sci-fi sounds of Blade Runner meshed together with a crashing and rolling rhythm section. Powerful drums bring the music into the realm of something “post”-like while the beeps and blurps of synths along with wavering and echoed violins solidify the futuristic ideals present. The themes never falsify themselves making Light Science a concept album of sorts that never strays away from the tonal structures revealed by the first song.
“A List of Things to Light on Fire” and “Wood, Metal and Bone” plow through barren soundscapes of thought with drones of sound that slowly build, giving way to something wholly unique and incomparable in terms of musicianship. The rabbid drums continually roll through a wall of sound created by a violin and a moog while contrasting duets between the horn and violin are worked in on top of it all, bringing instrumental melodies or “voices” to the already incredible sound. These “voices” guide listeners through a narrative that highlights a struggle between good and evil in an imagined dystopiated future.
Wires Under Tension slips near the end, however. The final song doesn’t contain the same dynamic idea that the rest of the effort works with. A strange title aside, it’s more of a “safe-bet” for the group, allowing them to close out the effort with a softer, less momentous event. It’s seven minutes of a leveled wall of sound with powerful percussion that works as the guided voice throughout. It’s a beautiful song, but when compared to the rest of the album, it’s an unfit conclusion and more monotonous than expected.
Last track aside, Light Science ends up being purely genius. The instrumental rock is fresh and unique, a brilliant light amidst all of the other dull groups who are generating “the same old thing.” Intriguing instruments and effects are used and combined to produce music that cannot be categorized. But that fact alone is what makes the music and the musicians so genuine, Tignor and Metz are pushing the boundaries of multiple genres and doing a damn fine job at it. With this being their debut release, new material from the duo will be highly anticipated. So, without categorizing the music too much, let us file this one under away as “Post Encounters of the Auditory Kind” and leave it at that.