“Paranoia” is the word that best describes the tone of Simian Mobile Disco‘s newest album ‘Unpatterns,’ especially as its title suggests a tendency to see or hear things that aren’t really there. This theme is explored throughout the various songs and in the album’s CD art and mobile app, which encourage you to play around with Moire patterns (such as sets of parallel lines that form visual artifacts when overlaid at an angle) while listening to the album.
The sound profile of ‘Unpatterns’ is similar to earlier works ‘Delicacies’ and ‘Temporary Pleasures’, with lots of space-age blips and bloops, analog noises, and filtered tones that run the gamut from muffled to nasal to glassy. However, ‘Unpatterns’ is less vocal-driven, more sinister, and infused with a sort of nervous energy that makes it a shade too dark, too menacing, for the dance floor.
The first few tracks lay down the general formula: spiky synth lines, glossy break beats, and soulful vocal samples layered on top. ‘I Waited For You’ consists of squelchy rubbery notes offset by haunting, stretched-out vocals. ‘Cerulean,’ which may refer to that yellowish-blue color humans can’t really see, starts out with fluttery chimes and percussion reminiscent of garbage-pail drums before introducing two syncopated synth lines that interweave over a smooth bass pulse. Other standouts include ‘Seraphim’, which features brass and blue chords, ‘A Species Out of Control,’ with its strident staccato melody, and the restless, wobbling, slowly de-coalescing tones of ‘Interference,’ another callout to the theme of visual interference of which Moire patterns are an example.
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,’ with its chirpy 8-bit sounds, is a reference to the famous Japanese woodprint of a woman being pleasured by an octopus, often wrongly interpreted as “tentacle rape” by modern sensibilities.
The last track on the album, ‘Pareidolia’, is the name for the phenomenon of seeing patterns that don’t exist, such as faces in the Moon or evidence of vast government conspiracies in everyday events. With its two overlapping time signatures, this track is almost a tongue-in-cheek challenge to the listener that tries to defy your expectations of what a song should be.
Don’t be fooled by all the trippy references, though — this album is far too much fun to be truly cerebral.