Love of Diagrams
n “Form and Function,” Australia’s Love of Diagrams take little time to address their link to the post-punk luminaries from which they obviously cull their coiled, monochromatic, yet instantly dynamic sound, with the line, “You know you do it well / But there’s no relation / It’s just form and function.” Like undergraduate art students handing over projects “in the style of…,” Love of Diagrams are acutely aware that they are using the same basic tools (guitar, bass, drums, and voice), the same cramped templates, angular tempo shifts, and even the same monotone vocal chants once employed by Au Pairs and Siouxsie Sioux, to promote an aura of that heady, inventive era; that formalist approach though, is simply circumstantial compared to the final product found here. In a deft exercise of post-modernism, the post-punk copy the trio Xerox onto their Mosaic may very well have been traced a thousand times over—identical brooding basslines and metronomic synapses enlarged and cropped—but in the end the group remain detached enough to (barely) escape unwanted cries of a forgery.
For such a young outfit, Love of Diagrams’ command of tightly-sealed, clockwork rhythm is surprisingly precise and on songs as propulsive as “Pace and Patience” and “Trouble,” this constant, relentless, motion is often enthralling and exhaustive. The anchor of Antonia Sellbach on bass and Monika Fikerle on drums alone, could moonlight as Delta 5 doppelgangers, though in retrospect such comparisons are too easy. In a millennial context, the primitive beginnings of post-punk from the Slits to Pylon (whom the trio covered on their debut EP for Matador), are almost ear-achingly sparse and brittle. The album’s brightest moment, “The Pyramid,” is an evolution out of those anemic and humbling modes—a senior thesis to their idol’s Dick and Jane readers.
The responsibility of which lies solely in the guitar washes of Luke Norton, a dimension on Mosaic unto himself. It’s following the crooked path that snakes between his femme counterparts, which is Mosaic’s most intriguing reward. Throughout the proceedings, and in the case of “Ms. V Export” within the space of a single song, he shifts dramatically from sharp, tattered riffs to prismatic rushes, simultaneously drifting off on his own and zeroing in on the terse interplay of his rhythm section. Even as “Ms. V Export” is Mosaic’s lone example of melodic pop, he obscures any sunny disposition with giant waves that reveal allegiance to the altar of Kevin Shields and what sounds like the soundtrack to some unmade quotidian sci-fi thriller.
Then again, Love of Diagrams, brief as their international debut may be, can’t muster up the energy to invigorate for an entire record. What some might call a lesser second half, can also be coined as derivative compliments of that skeletal motif I spoke of earlier; Sellbach’s bass merely spits fumes on “What Was I Supposed to Do,” and the sprawling “All This Time.” Norton’s guitar inventions, meanwhile, rarely take the time to sit still and that’s more than enough reason to instigate repeated listens. As a launch-pad, Mosaic breathes life into a stagnant Matador calendar, crowded with old-timers and obligatory re-issues, but once the trio graduates into life after posturing like their forefathers and foremothers, there’s a masterpiece, somewhere out there, waiting in the wings.
Reviewed by: Kevin J. Elliott
Reviewed on: 2007-04-17