Four albums into their career, and the UK’s ADD N TO (X) deliver their definitive highpoint so far, finally realizing the potential of their former endeavors, and establishing a truly unique and defined voice for themselves. Loud Like Nature is their most unified album yet — paradoxically so, considering how the trio mainly recorded songs apart from each other, only occasionally working together on different tracks.
The result, then, offers proof that ADD N TO (X)’s peculiarity rests as much in the diverse expressions of the band’s members, as in any singular idea of what they should sound like. And from the garage-y electro-punk of opening “Total All Out Water” to the spacy “Party Bag” and the hip weirdness of “Large Number,” Loud Like Nature offers the most curious, exploring and confident electro-trash you’re likely to hear in a while. A brave and inventive album that refuse to be held down by conventional barriers of genre or style.
The maestros of the Moog have delivered another feisty batch of deranged and damaged tones, cementing the band’s reputation as the kings of the keyboard. What began as a bizarre bastardization of electronica and rock has evolved into a sound that’s easily identifiable, readily separating this English trio from the two musical subsets that compose their sonic foundation.
Loud Like Nature pretty much stays true to the band’s roots. Vintage analog synths buzz out sexy lines while live drum tracks steer the band away from potentially cheesy beats (and their resulting stigmas). The vocoder interjects robotic-style vocals on a few tracks, while peculiar samples and a brief guitar stint provide for lively, organic additions on others.
Opening track “Total All Out Water” mixes a mesmerizing beat with deformed vocals and spliced samples of campy B-movie gals screaming their lungs out. The band switches gears on “Party Bag”, fashioning a flippant, late-night dance floor space-out session that fills the air with a dense and sultry groove; the warbly, computerized vocals sound like a possessed Speak ‘N’ Spell machine.
Guitar in its natural, effects-free state is unusual on an ADD N TO (X) album — but Pulp’s Richard Hawley plies his signature six-string between spiraling synths and high-pitched vocals on “Sheez Mine”. Hawley alternates between picking through a barrage of squeaky notes and extracting unexplained noises from his axe, coming off like a malfunctioning machine that’s speaking to the band’s analog devices in its own tongue. The accompaniment — chanted vocals and churning notes — epitomizes ADD N TO (X)’s ability to find structure in chaos.
“Invasion of the Polaroid People” showcases Kim Fowley (the ’70s and ’80s music maven) in a rare vocal appearance, while samples spill forth in endless supply. Fans of The Dwarves’ “Smack City” may recognize the “Shooting up in the boys’ room at Dog High School, Dorkville, U.S.A.” bit that’s mixed in between the swirling Moog tones. Other tunes stomp through everything from backmasked vocals to hyperactive, distortion-friendly space-jams, all autographed with the band’s analog synths and fucked up musical stances.
While time generally takes its toll on most bands, mutating their sound into something markedly different than whatever first brought them onto the scene, ADD N TO (X) have retained their sense of direction and honed their sound into a powerful and persuasive entity. Their eccentric mesh of electronic synths and steady rock beats has kept them on the fringe of the music scene — and kept fans happy and fulfilled. Sure, lots of bands use vintage instruments — but few push them harder or further than ADD N to (X).