Languis' newest material flirts with the fey, frosty indietronica signifiers that have made the Postal Service and the Notwist semi-famous. The South Americans' sound is as personal as a myspace.com entry, but much more pleasurable to experience. They incorporate elements of shoegazer rock, a subgenre that de-machofied guitar-centric music, advancing morose sleepiness, watery distortion, withdrawn vocals, and immersive atmospheres as primary sonic virtues. It's ironic that an oft-scorned underground-rock movement that flourished 15 years ago has impacted 21st-century electronica so heavily.
Lately, Plug Research has been angling for some of that quasi-lucrative shoegazetronica pie, which Germany's Morr Music has been hogging in recent years. Languis' 2004 full-length, The Four Walls, is one of the better efforts in this style, coming close to the grandeur of Pluramon's Dreams Top Rock and Guitar's Sunkissed.
Languis are shrinking violets on the mic, and their music doesn't exactly storm into your brain. The group's part of a growing movement toward quiescence, fragility, and ethereal beauty (see Lali Puna, Tristeza, AM/PM, Nobody, Album Leaf, Eluvium, Junior Boys, Styrofoam, Signer, et al.). While some musicians rage against the regime through noise as ugly as politicians' hypocrisy, these aural ascetics retreat wombward with muted passion and blurred introspection.
On The Four Walls--which boasts contributions from Jimmy Tamborello, Nobody, Paul Larson (Strictly Ballroom), and Chris Hathwell (Moving Units)--Languis make their bid for commercial acceptance, albeit of a decidedly uncrass sort. "Asleep" displays hazy, uptempo Ride-like rock featuring that band's reliance on breathy, heavy-lidded vocals. Languis revel in orchestral ambience and spacious song structures in which everything's soft focus, Vaseline-lensed, and solarized.
While Walls broadened Languis' accessibility, 2002's Untied (simballrec) is the duo's most fully realized work. Throughout the disc, Languis deftly mesh organic and synthetic textures, much like Seattle's Electric Birds. Also like Electric Birds, Languis--who perform Friday, February 4, at Lower Level (CHAC)--fancy the undulant keyboard hypnosis pioneered by American minimalist composers Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich. Untied is an unassuming masterpiece in which Languis merge their subtly beautiful melodies with impressionistic textures, grasping for the elusive, intangible emotions that mark much of the most ambitious music.