2LP, Limited Edition, Clear Vinyl
It's somewhat surprising that Liars' first official soundtrack came so late in their career, considering the gifts for setting moods and evoking places they've shown since They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. Both talents are on ample display on 1/1, the score to director Jeremy Phillips' coming-of-age tale about a troubled young woman stuck in rural Pennsylvania. Instead of using visual cues, the band crafted its music based on prompts from Phillips ("Imagine you have a 100-piece puzzle but you have 1000 pieces -- what would that sound like?"), making for a more unpredictable, more Liars kind of film score. In keeping with their usual modus operandi, they recorded 1/1 soon after making 2014's Mess, but the score couldn't be more different from that album's dense riffs on industrial and synth pop. Instead, they draw on insular, implosive sounds they mastered on Drum's Not Dead and WIXIW and let the strangeness that crept around the margins of their albums take the spotlight. With its scurrying textures and frosty drones, "No Now Not Your Face" sets the tone for later studies in dread and isolation like the naggingly spooky "Gesta Danorum" and "Drastic Tactic," which juxtaposes screeching electronics with dead silence. The band also contrasts the score's more chaotic moments with ambient cues that offer a few moments of serenity on "Telepathic Interrogation" and "Nøkke." The score's brightest highlights rival anything from Liars' own albums: "Helsingor Lane" uses swarms of backward guitar and Angus Andrew's spectral vocals to convey a sense of dislocation as potent as Sisterworld's, while "Liquorice"'s caricature of sleazy dance music and "Shitraver"'s suffocating rot underscore the band's skill at expressing disturbing states of mind in very different, but equally powerful, ways. It's hard to think of a group better suited to provide the musical backdrop for a character whose life is in flux, given Liars' ever-changing sound and lineup. They made 1/1 not long after drummer Julian Gross left, and Aaron Hemphill would depart in 2016, leaving Andrew the project's sole member. In hindsight, it's possible to hear some of the profound loneliness of Liars' next album TFCF and the disorienting washes of Hemphill's subsequent work as Nonpareils in this score, and for that reason alone, 1/1 is more than just a commissioned work -- as much as one release from this band could, it sums up their approach and points the way forward.