Propelled by decadent, dance floor-ready albums by Ratatat, Crystal Castles, and Lindstrøm, 2008 was a hallmark year for indie electronica. Disco revivalism reigned supreme. As if to cement that resurgence, Lemonade dropped their self-titled debut, with bold, relentless tracks like “Big Weekend’ and “Real Slime” signaling plenty of promise for the Brooklyn-via-San Francisco trio. Unfortunately, that earnestness has since waned. While the group went on to release 2010’s shimmering Pure Moods EP, on which they explore expansive soundscapes and tropical rhythms, they fell flat on their second full-length, Diver. Gone were the ecstatic beats that pulsated throughout their debut album. The trio’s penchant for excess had devolved into a watered-down, languid minimalism — a trend that persists with Minus Tide.
Opening with a dribble of cascading synths, “Stepping” is dense with vocalist Callan Clendenin’s vapid lyrics. Over dissonant bass lines, he sings, “Through the haze, through the steam, are you looking for me?/ Like grains of sand on the beach, they all look the same to me.” You’re not really sure what he’s getting at here, but clearly, something is missing. That vacancy echoes throughout, including on the title track, where Clendenin esoterically sings, “The minus tide is pulling me/ I could be the drops that chase you down.” Waterlogged with lite-FM synths and lumbering saxophone solos, the tracks are also marked by suffocatingly dull vocals.
Minus Tide does still include a few artful offerings. “OST” is an opulent dance track tethered by crisp bass lines and sharp hooks, while the lavish grandeur of “Orchid Bloom” pushes things in a bouncier direction. The crux of Minus Tide’s weakness is that Lemonade’s former sense of adventure is lost. It’s almost baffling why the group wouldn’t want to reclaim their territory as the ostentatious floor-fillers they first emerged as. It’s what they were really good at, and they sounded excited to be there. Listening to tracks like “Reaches” and “Water Colored Visions”, it’s difficult to believe this is a band that once produced the acerbic thumpers that evoked the spirit of early-’90s dance parties. True to the album name, Minus Tide is one body of work that lacks the aggression that initially made Lemonade so exciting.
Essential Tracks: “OST”, “Orchid Bloom”