Cut Copy co-headlines Red Rocks with Chromeo this Tuesday, August 5. With Flume and Duke Dumont sharing the bill, the show will represent different facets of an international electronic dance music that isn't directly connected with the EDM phenomenon. Cut Copy first came to the attention of audiences outside its home country of Australia with its debut, 2004's Bright Like Neon Love, an evocation and amalgamation of '80s synth pop and '90s guitar bands like My Bloody Valentine and Lush. A little ahead of the curve on the current neo-wave of synth pop, Cut Copy's star has been on a bit of a rapid ascent since the 2008 release of its sophomore record, In Ghost Colours.
With its 2011 album Zonoscope, the band cut back on conventional rock guitar and focused on processed sounds through the instrument. The result was a combination of the tonal qualities of an electronic instrument but with the benefit of control that one can exert directly with a guitar.
In preparing material for 2013's Free Your Mind, the band started experimenting with old drum machines, 808s and the like, and rediscovering late '80s and early '90s house music, particularly Chicago house legend Larry Heard and Primal Scream.
"I think Screamadelic by Primal Scream is a good example of a rock band messing around with samplers and drum machines and creating this hybrid house and rock record," say guitarist Tim Hoey.
Another concept that went in to the writing of the album and conceptualizing its presentation were the twin Summers of Love, separated by roughly two decades. The first was in San Francisco in the late '60s, and the second in England in the late '80s, when Acid House and the free flow of MDMA in the clubs largely replaced the LSD that was perceived to fuel the consciousness expansion in the Haight and beyond. But it wasn't necessarily drugs-induced joy that Cut Copy had in mind with the record.
"One of the themes of the record was people coming together in a joyous kind of way," explains Hoey. "We get a lot of that from playing shows and in creating a lot of energy in the crowd and feeding on that. And we wanted to capture that kind of atmosphere on record and create a kind of higher state of consciousness that way. Even though, stylistically, the music of those eras are quite different the message and the theme are kind of the same. We had the idea of continuing that idea in 2014."
Mixed by David Fridmann of Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev fame, Free Your Mind has the kind of sunny, exuberant spirit that borders on the overwhelming. It's music best experienced in the live setting.
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Seeking a physical experience of the music, the group presented the album to the public with strategically-based billboards at which people could listen to tracks from the unreleased album.
"Even before starting the record wanted to present the music in a very physical way," says Hoey. "It's kind of an anti-climax now when you put songs up on the Internet and everybody is used to it and the impact of it dissipates in 24 or 48 hours.
"We're very conscious of that, and we thought it would be great to stage these real-world events where fans and passersby can engage with it in a physical way. It carried on the theme of the record in terms of bringing people together. You know, people crowding around the record and listening to the new track."
So the group set up cameras at the billboards to document reactions. This throwback approach, as well as the band's recording of a live song at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival, which it released on the spot as a lathe cut vinyl, has helped to keep the group in the public consciousness.
The band's openness to new ideas and trying out experiments in putting its music out into the world inspired fans Aramique Krauthamer, Qanta Shimzu and Masa Kawamura to make a video for "We Are Explorers." In it, they animated figures made with a 3D printer and published the software so that others could recreate the video themselves.
"The guy that kind of made the video invented this method of stop motion and 3D printing and he showed it to us," says Hoey. " It's not an official video or anything but we thought it was kind of cool."
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS • - Q&A with Dan Whitford of Cut Copy - Flume's Harley Streten started making music with software he got from a cereal box - The ten best jazz drummers of all time - The ten best jazz pianists of all time
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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.