Until now, paranoia, withdrawal and autonomous isolation were the recurring motifs of Kevin Parker’s work as Tame Impala; a telescopic falsetto diffusing from the psychedelic backwoods of his brilliant mind, with polychrome guitar scuzz providing the perfect backdrop for his psyche to be radiated in the shape of mesmerizing soundscapes. With Currents, the falsetto is as remote as ever, but the guitars have been (almost) altogether ditched. Instead, a masterful display of reclusive, kaleidoscopic synth-pop is seen as a better canvas for Parker to paint his own metamorphosed state of mind – a state of mind that is now a percolator of regret, and ultimately heartbreak. It’s a majestic transition that maintains some of the miasmic isolation of its predecessors, but principally embraces the evolution of a ruminative mindset.
The cogs in a mind such as Parker’s are in perpetual motion, whirring and fixating on a given behaviour, melting and warping his mentality in order to explicitly relay the feelings that can drive you crazy if ignored. Considering this, opening track Let It Happen is seemingly the perfect introduction to Currents. This is 8 minutes of shape-shifting, disco-Zen that is arguably Parker’s best work, oozing intricate production wizardry and accepting the acceptance of change. Followers of Tame Impala will be no strangers to the studio prowess of Parker, but it is taken to the next level and beyond with this track. Each drum strike is as precise and intricate as the most celebrated pieces of pointillism. The sparing use of a steamrolling riff over the hybrid disco trail is impeccable, and the keystone passage where a half-second loop is stuck on repeat is achieved with alarming dexterity. It’s not far off a masterpiece, and is an unequivocal foreword to a fascinating stream of cognisance.
Parker hasn’t left the withdrawal and isolation behind entirely, but instead of putting on a pedestal as the lynchpin of his album, he confines it to a couple of compelling transitional interludes. Nangs is the first of these, showing more studio sorcery in the shape of a modular synth skit that ripples, like a current in itself, into another entrancing soundscape that has come to be Parker’s trademark. Gossip is another example of this, where another rippling synth paves the way for a transition in the frame of mind of Currents. The work in the studio achieved throughout Currents by Parker really is astounding, surpassing even that of Lonerism, where most superlatives were used up 3 years ago.
The heartbreak and regret that is the nucleus of this record is worn most brazenly in Yes I’m Changing and Eventually, a doublet of tracks that could well be (the latter especially) about Parker’s uncoupling from Melody Prochet. He’ll never not sound like John Lennon, but in these two tracks especially it’s impossible to ignore it.
Although this record does home in and fixate on a given mindset, that isn’t to say that atmospheres can’t change within that particular psyche. The Less I Know The Better fractures away from the Gossip interlude in the shape of a scintillating groove, allowing for the first hint of frustration and irritation to filter through the soundscape. Kevin Parker stated that this track perhaps shouldn’t find its way on to a Tame Impala album, citing it as “dorky, white disco funk”, but it is a further example of Parker’s ability as a musician and a producer, and is perfect in the overall contrivance of the album.
In the home stretch, ‘Cause I’m a Man steals the show. This is a straight up pop-song with an over-affectionate bassline mollycoddling a gorgeous synth-scape, with that falsetto at its absolute serene best. Along with Let It Happen, this could easily stake a claim to be the best track ever recorded by Tame Impala. It smolders beautifully while Parker balks under his pain, and is both sugary sweet and elegantly agonizing. Exquisite stuff.
The dramatic shift in psyche means Currents stands separate from Lonerism and Innerspeaker, but as an album, it deserves just as much critical acclaim as they achieved. Even the name of the record could not be more appropriate, with the riptides of The Moment and The Less I Know The Better vying with the undertow of New Person, Same Old Mistakes, which closes the record with a whisper of defiance. Currents is the epitome of Parker’s ability to render a serenely beautiful image over a much darker proposition, and a celebration of his incredible prowess as a drummer and a bassist. His synth work on this record is nothing short of remarkable, and his ability as a producer is further enhanced to a level at which he has no contemporaries. Parker is a once-in-a-generation talent, and this album is conclusive evidence of it.
FIRST PUBLISHED ON NO RIPCORD