Get Off My Planet
Seven years is a sizable period of downtime for a band, especially one with as much of a focus on sound design and production as Germany’s Liquid Divine. Autophobia, the duo’s last salvo of dreamy, futurist electro came at a very different time; club concerns still held sway with a large number of bands, and blending those with a lighter yet more solemn approach made Liquid Divine stand out. A similar case occurred last year, when Neuroticfish’s return prompted a re-evaluation of Sascha Klein’s bombastic futurepop years after it had held sway. But while Klein overcame that gap through pure songcraft, Christian Fritzsche and Guido Stoye plays things closer to the chest on Get Off My Planet.
The clear soundscapes and bubbling arps (which have always connoted utopian skyscrapers and extropian fantasies to me) that made Autophobia stand out from their previous, more percussion-oriented work, are on display out of the gate. Check the way that clicks and glitches shift in and out of focus on opener “Now And Then”, underpinning shimmering pads and a breathy outing from Stoye, recalling Covenant in their sloganeering moments. That focus on arrangement and mixing carries through most of the hour run-time is, on the one hand, the quality which made Liquid Divine stand out for me in a sea of would-be Seabounds and minds.in.a.box, but on the the other, is so doggedly pursued that the record can feel a bit sterile, or at least beholden to its own aesthetic.
That said, when the record does briefly leave its ivory tower and wrestle with broader musical changes which have happened since Autophobia, it feels a bit forced; the detuned, buzzing bass which kicks off “House Of Leaves” feels far too on the nose given everything which brackets it, and the track’s better off when it just gives itself over to icy trance sounds.
So, if they risk being pinioned to their own (now somewhat retro) futurist style but can’t find a way to mesh into the present, what’s Liquid Divine to do? Well, ironically for a record which places such a premium on sound design, Get Off My Planet is at its best when it puts the focus on melody. The almost old-timey crooning which runs through “Trillion”, or the winning harmonies stalwart Liquid Divine collaborator Frank Spinath lends to “Let’s Begin Again”, are among the record’s most memorable moments. They’re also it’s most simple moments, and and without wanting to speculate about how much of the time between records was spent honing production I think there’s something telling about that. In spite of finding it a pleasant enough listen I can’t help but wonder how Get Off My Planet might have benefited from a closer eye to those more basic elements.