Ever since entering the general consciousness of music followers back in 2010, Kevin Parker (founder and chief member of Australian ensemble Tame Impala) has shown a great deal of creative flair. Whether it be absorbing and tweaking the style of his psych rock influences or opening doorways to trippy, melodic places, Parker has proven himself to be both meticulous in practice and vast in imagination. Currents, however, sees both Parker and Impala shift into a whole new paradigm. The group’s third album expands their sonic territory with a more electronic spectrum in tow.
There’s significantly less focus on the fuzzy amplification and vintage-tinted material that served as a blueprint for their previous work, and because of this, a fair amount of crunch and sizzle has been lost in translation. In it’s place, though, lies something just as, if not more interesting. Currents finds its melted, gooey centre attached to the idea of transition, both from a lyrical and musical stand point. “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”, “Eventually” and the icy cool, emotive crooning of “Yes I’m Changing” all focus on the idea of change, both personally and from the remnants of a ruined romantic endeavour. There’s a subdued sense of hurt on the album, and a bulk of the record has clearly been written during a very personal period for Parker. Rather than be a full-blown outpouring of pain, however, underpinning the personal challenges presented on Currents is a feeling of hope, hope that somewhere down the line something better lies in wait. The true value of this comes into light with multiple listens, as does an appreciation for the change in musical aesthetic.
Both rhythms and guitar work throughout the record are a lot more minimal and downtempo than Tame Impala’s previous output, and again, although this loses some of the bands immediacy, it broadens their horizons and sees them enter into some vast and rich new territories. Steeped in synthesiser tones, glistening keys, swirling pads and layered electronics, Currents is a very dreamy affair — one that blends the faded pastel colors of minimal 80’s pop with the more experimental practices of the genre’s output in the 70’s. Add to this a healthy dose of studio trickery and even a touch of contemporary, beat-centric RnB (“Past Life” fuses these together wonderfully), and you’re starting to make your way into the vast, complex hive of Tame Impala’s bastardised hybrid.
The idea of change and the theme of moving on from bad relationships (either with yourself or another) are nothing new to music — they’re both a universally explored within the medium — the way Parker and company have married both concepts lyrically and instrumentally, though, is a genuine breathe of fresh air and nothing short of fascinating.