The very definition of ‘Brio,’ which happens to be the tenth track of Dutch Uncles’ giant slalom of a third album, neatly subtitles what deserves to be the Greater Manchester band’s triumphant breakthrough release. On this lush, adroitly constructed album, curlicues of vivacious melodies, boomeranging tempos, arrhythmic beats — all tenderly herded along by singer Duncan Wallis’ airy vocal glissades — slither and stutter through songs like chamber pop Morse code.
While terms like “math rock” can be rightly bandied about when discussing Dutch Uncles’ cerebral cartwheels on Out Of Touch In The Wild, there’s also a rigorous effort on the band’s part to find great beauty, emotional resonance and lightness in their songs. Like their equally ambitious label mates Field Music, delightfully incapable of restricting a song to a single thought, motivation or thread, Dutch Uncles have deep reverence for the excesses and grandeur of prog rock, sharpening it to razor precision.
Songs, like the aforementioned ‘Brio,’ bristle with the thorny pulse of krautrock, and more experimental flourishes, phrasings and punctuations, echoing smart pop and contemporary classical, abound. The hoary breath of XTC, Talk Talk , Talking Heads, Sparks, Steve Reich and even Laurie Anderson might huff and puff through tracks like the ever-expanding, arpeggiated piano-and-marimba pogo of ‘Fester’ and the aching, racing palpitation of ‘Threads,’ but the Dutch Uncles aren’t mere mynah birds. The quintet busily creates its own cryptic algorithms, coyly christening their labyrinthine songs after forced chess moves (‘Zug Zwang’) or Greek mythology (‘Phaedra’) and alluding, with expressionistic brush strokes, to addiction, flawed communication or sex.
Even better, Out Of Touch In The Wild isn’t just solitary headphone music for Pythagorean geeks; the soulful ‘Flexxin,’ ‘Bellio’ and ‘Fester’ command listeners to move, dance, and make reckless love. Dutch Uncles’ tracks have lent themselves effortlessly to clubby remixes (check out the Rubika remix of Dutch Uncles 2011 single ‘Cadenza’ or Egyptian Hip Hop’s take on ‘The Ink’). Brainy music that happens to be lusty or athletic is hardly an antipodean concept, but Dutch Uncles’ Out Of Touch In The Wild adds a third, crucial component — a reverberant, emotive undertow — which makes this remarkable record the earliest front-runner for one of the best albums of 2013.