Excellent album alert: 2020,
the new album by Australian electronic duo Biftek
, is something of a revelation. Not only because it's an Australian dance album that for once doesn't veer towards either indistinctiveness or blatant rock sell-out, but also because it takes its target style (minimalist tech-house, I guess) and makes it fresh, fun and, well, pop.
Which is weird and wonderful, and utterly necessary for an area of music which is usually defined by its anal rententiveness.
The influences this band wear on their sleeves are almost too many to list: Kraftwerk, 60's exotica, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Moroder, electro, Chain Reaction/Basic Channel in general and Monolake in particular, Sheffield bleep'n'bass, Daft Punk, the cutesy Warp techno of Boards of Canada and Plone and some breakbeat. However, in spite of these many influences, Biftek's shiny retro-futurist sparkle has an incredibly distinct personality, helped enormously by the intensely thematic nature of the album, the cover of which features a chic cartoon agent-gal talking into her watchphone against the backdrop of a halcyon 23rd century skyline.
There's an undeniably kitschadelic element to the music here - just check songtitles like "Doctors and Nurses", "Modern Women", "Japanese Game Show" and "Suzanne" - but importantly Biftek's endearing post-modern/post-feminist humour is always contained within a broader dedication to lustrous, spangly grooves that quickly lodge themselves in your brain. My favourite moment here is "We Think You're Dishy", which combines a minimal acid bassline with metronomic drum machines, disco strings and whispered vocals in a compelling Moroder-inspired groove. It's cyborg-house, but it's also a pop song, and did comparatively well on the local charts.
New single "Wired For Sound" (a cover of the 1981 Cliff Richard track) goes one step further, having Julee Cruise sing girlishly over a backing track that sounds like a Chain Reaction release on fast forward. And there are quite a few similarly pop-focused moments, though thankfully the more abstract second half holds up just as well. I'll stop here I think, because I want to write a full review later on, but suffice to say that 2020 comes highly recommended.