About four minutes into Uncut's "Taken In Sleep," there's a moment that exemplifies everything the Toronto band does right that most Joy Division/My Bloody Valentine disciples don't. The song opens strong, with a canyon-filler riff and offhandedly mumbly Ian Worang vocals. Right before the end, the guitar doubles up, burying the words and then steamrolling into the bank of warmly buzzing synthesizers that cushions the climax. The result sounds atmospheric, danceable, dramatic, and genuinely inspired.
The rest of Uncut's debut album, Those Who Were Hung Hang Here, displays comparable strength, though most of the tracks provide variations on a single arrangement: Worang generates a long, thick guitar lick which his bandmates cover with general sonic rumble and an incessantly chugging rhythm. Since Uncut began life as a techno-punk hybrid before replacing the drum machines with a live rhythm section, the group knows how to explore the nuances of repetition. Worang and company charge through songs as short and wicked as "Intentions Change" and as abstractly drifting as the album-closing "When For Now," all while holding on to the confidence of the record's opening credo: "This is the new violence." Actually, it's not all that new and it's not all that violent, but as loud, melodic, percussive rock goes, it's top-shelf.
Belgian glitch-pop collective Styrofoam doesn't patent anything new on Nothing's Lost, either, but the album does make a case for what strong vocalsor any vocals, for that mattercan do for chilled-out dance music. Conceived as a tribute to the Brussels club Ancienne Belgique, Nothing's Lost features contributions from members of The Notwist, Lali Puna, American Analog Set, and Death Cab For Cutie, all of whom invest soft electronic beats and gently billowing guitars with their own fragile humanity. Death Cab's Ben Gibbard adds lyrics, guitar, and a voice to "Couches In Alleys," which conveys a lot of the low-key slacker romanticism of Gibbard's Postal Service project, while Andrew Kenny's work on "Front To Back" moves beyond the porch-light hum of American Analog Set to a more blankly anxious sound. Styrofoam frontman Arne Van Petegem picks up his collaborators' mood, creating a soundtrack for nervous young people in frosty metropolises.