Are You Earthed?

Motorik Music is a term used to encompass propulsive German pop, everything from the chugging '70s kraut rock of Neu! through the thumping techno of Kraftwerk. It gets lots of mileage from repeating one riff to trance-inducing ends, which makes for not only great driving music but also for a sense of automated, "go-go-go" detachment.

Though its name may imply a similarly mechanical repetition, the British trio Appliance attempts to caress the motor with a sheen of emotive psychedelia. With its third album, Are You Earthed?, the group still moves in a motorik way, but this time some things have changed. Singer/guitarist James Brooks used to emotionally flatten his vocals to match the band's driving arrangements. Now his mantric mewls temper the vulnerability of the Byrds' Roger McGuinn and the snarl of My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. Few can drawl out lines like "I can almost see it/It's really not far" like this breathy boy.

The band has fully converted motorik's relentless forward-motion arrangements into a kinetic swirl enhanced by electronic bleeps and rhythms as well as Brooks' fearlessly poppy guitar riffs. This direction seems to come from a looser attitude that allows for contemplative, beatless tunes such "Boats" and the Love and Rockets-esque "Go Native" to fold in neatly with electro-tinged desert-scene instrumentals.

Are You Earthed? finds Appliance almost glowing with a sense of driving, radiant calm, and it may just prove the sleeper indie album of the year.


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