“Teach me how to be a person,” Liars frontman Angus Andrew intones over a rattling synth groove on “Flood To Flood,” a song off of WIXIW, the upcoming new album from Liars, to be released worldwide by Mute. It’s a crucial lyric, providing insight into the fractured conundrum that evocatively haunts every note of WIXIW – one of the most provocative, unsettling, and significant records you’ll probably encounter in 2012. Recorded in L.A. and self-produced by the band (with additional production from Daniel Miller and mixing by Tom Biller), WIXIW is hard to shake, tough to pin down, and impossible to get out of one’s head after even an initial listen. Simultaneously the most accessible, and most challenging, release from these art / indie / noise / experimental / whatever iconoclasts, it’s unlike anything in Liars’ repetoire – which is pretty much business as usual at this stage in their career.
WIXIW is actually Liars’ sixth full-length album as a band, which comprises Andrew, Aaron Hemphill, and Julian Gross. As such, it provides both a summation of Liars’ work up to now, and a complete break from anything you’d ever heard the band do previously. Forming in the Los Angeles area, where co-founders Andrew and Hemphill met at the famed California Institute of the Arts, Liars soon after decamped to Brooklyn, gaining notice after being lumped into the early aughts’ post-punk revival with their first album They Threw Us in a Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top (2001).
Liars then willfully confounded that pigeonholing with classically difficult sophomore effort They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, a confrontational, noisy concept cycle dealing with German witch trials co-produced by the band with David Sitek (TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Liars then decamped to Berlin to create 2006’s Drum’s Not Dead: another conceptual album about the poisonous power dynamic between two fictional protagonists Drum and Mount Heart Attack, it proved as acclaimed for its shapeshifting surrealism and brutal rhythms as They Were Wrong… was initially reviled, reaching #6 on Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums of that year. Perversely, the band’s eponymous 2007 follow-up, mixed by Depeche Mode collaborator Gareth Jones, replaced the now-trademark heady themes with a gripping emphasis on stripped-down, primal rock and roll; Rolling Stone listed “Freak Out” from the album one of the 100 Best Songs of that year. Such admiration didn’t prepare for Liars’ next release, 2009’s Sisterworld – and the band’s masterpiece up to then, receiving an 8.1 “Best New Music” rating from Pitchfork.