Wires Under Tension are Theo Metz (drums) and Christopher Tignor (multi-instrumentalist), and with debut album Light Science, they have crafted seven tracks of refreshingly original and superbly unnerving material. The name of the album and band conjures notions of tense electronica, and there are certainly flashes of this throughout; however, there is much, much more to Light Science than that. Opener ‘Electricity Turns Them on’ is immediately intriguing, and slowly but surely builds from a throbbing bass and evocative strings to a thrilling percussion performance from Metz. The album feels like a futuristic, digitised landscape where humanity fights to be heard; the tension between the instruments and programming is perfectly exposed by Metz’s percussive style, at once technically accomplished yet aggressively primal.
In the absence of vocals, WUT allow the listener to wander through their sonic landscapes, creating images and meaning for themselves. It would be a disservice to pin down WUT to a single style or genre, as multiple threads and strains run concurrently throughout the album to rise above mere labelling. While the core focus revolves around Tignor’s subtle compositions (be it with looping melodies or in a modulated supporting role), post-rock breakdowns are complimented by brass sections, bells, synths and whatever else Tignor can get his hands on.
‘Position and Hold’ features a sprightly French horn that locks hypnotically with a slower xylophone melody as recordings of air traffic controllers close the song over eerie violin echoes, while the intro of ‘A List of Things to Light on Fire’ sounds like a chase scene of a sci-fi film; the jazzy brass and rhythmic pounding conjures images of dystopian hi-rises from the likes of Blade Runner. ‘Mnemonics in Motion’ features an disco violin line introduced which rises above the distorted synth drones and urgent drums, which could well be the soundtrack to a cyborg summer romance. For those who feel over-saturated by the latest wave of bands attempting to weld unwieldy electronica to their sound in an effort to keep up with the market, Wires Under Tension feel like a breath of fresh air. The talents of the duo are allowed to speak for themselves, and with careful accompaniment and loving attention to detail, the album soars.
One of the many victories for WUT is that none of the instrumental choices feel badly out of place; the accompaniments never serve to detract from the original clarity of the songs, meaning that the root chords and ideas are always there, shining like a beacon while the song may be raging on. The strength of Light Science is that it feels cohesive and balanced while never becoming predictable or bland. The journey is full of flashes of colour and vibrance, and clocking in at 33 minutes, there’s enough of Light Science to love without it dragging. This is a hugely impressive debut from Tignor and Metz, and once you delve into WUT’s world of metronomic beauty, you may well lose yourself in it.