By Christopher Nosnibor
It’s hard to ignore or deny the Depeche Mode influence on JoyCut’s third album, and the shadows of the 80s loom large over their dark-edged electro compositions. It’s a sound that’s landed the Italian trio support slots touring with Editors, Art Brut, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire and Sebadoh and unquestionably has a broad appeal, both in terms of fan-base and geography.
The first track, ‘Wireless’ actually owes more to DM circa 1984/5 than Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion which have come to be touch(s)tones of contemporary electro acts with a darker, edgier aspect to their sound. But along with the tinkly synths and the dancefloor-friendly beats that hark back to the kind of euphoric dance that was all the rage (or should that be rave?) in the mid to late 90s, there’s an upsurging undercurrent reminiscent of New Order at their best. And from the outset, the key to JoyCut’s appeal is apparent: yes, they incorporate many elements of tried and tested musical tropes into their sound, but their ability to make it all meld so seamlessly prevents it from falling to cliché and instead means theirs is a sound that’s both familiar and fresh.
A lugubrious piano hangs over a distant industrialised beat at the back of ‘IndividualRoutine;’ the effect is atmospheric and bleak, but from it emerges a delicately interweaving lead guitar sound, which then bursts into a solid bass-driven instrumental that straddles early 80s Cure and, yes, ok, Depeche Mode. With precision drumming, icy synths and stark bass drone, ‘Funeral’ and ‘ChildrenInLove’ could both be instrumental outtakes from either New Order’s Movement or The Cure’s Faith.
It’s electropop, it’s post-rock, it’s post-punk, it’s dance, it’s chillwave… it’s all of these and more, yet at the same time it’s none of these things: the title suggests an explosion, a fragmentation, and in many ways it encapsulates everything Joycut represent. Pieces of Us Were Left on the Ground pieces together myriad fragments of influence to forge a sound that recreates the zeitgeist of a bygone era while sounding contemporary and cohesive.
The mid-section of ‘Dark Star’ is pure 80s goth, frenetic tribal drumming and fractal, chorus-laden guitars crackling atop a booming bass. The blissful tranquillity of ‘PiecesOfUs’ is blasted through with the punching snare and a buoyant shoegaze guitar, underpinned by a thumping bass in shape of the trancelike ‘Neverland’, and ‘Evil’ sounds like Nine Inch Nails covering ‘Carnage Visors,’ while ‘Pieces of Us’ simply soars, a compact cinematic epic.
At times, it does feel like a vocal would complete the sound (the vocals are so buried on ‘Save’ as to barely be there, and it works well, not least of all because it brings some variety) – but any vocals by way of a feature would need to be distinctive, and distinctive vocalists can be so divisive. Take an act like Wild Beasts, for example: musically, they’ve got everything, but the vocals – the reason so many love the band – are enough to drive an equal number of potential fans away in droves.
JoyCut aren’t going to mess with what they’ve got: the music alone creates the mood, dictates the atmosphere, and since Pieces of Us Were Left on the Ground conjures atmosphere in wide-ranging spadefuls, there’s not much to be found wanting here.
PiecesOfUsWereLeftOnTheGround is released by Irma Records