Ninja Tune’s press release for Hexstatic’s second proper album, Master View, hails the album as a beacon of originality for including a DVD whose 3D videos are meant as visual counterparts to the songs. “A plush DVD of crazy A/V shit, brother,” the essay drools. If cardboard glasses without stems that fall right off your nose are “plush” and a DVD that revels in typical anti-consumerist chiding (and often looks better in two rather than in three dimensions) is “crazy,” then we’ve got a winner. It’s a nice idea, but the DVD isn’t quite the spectacle Ninja Tune amps it up to be; it’s probably closer to something you’ll watch once, and only once.
Master View the album is dance-pop in the ‘70s-TV-theme-song-mixed-with-tecnophilic-video-game-bleeps vein: sort of a pimped out Kraftwerk. Everything about the album shouts retro — from the Master View (remember that red slideshow thing from when we were kids?) on the album cover to the DVD video clips of old television shows to the ‘70s-style funk feel to the mid-‘80s-like synth crescendos. Hexstatic is smart enough to pull the cord on most of these songs right around the four-minute mark; there isn’t much to get excited about if you don’t really feel the groove. “Chase Me,” for instance, is completely infectious for a few minutes, but Hexstatic’s idea of a changing things up seems to consist of one keyboard function dropping out, maybe a post- (or sub-, or in-)human voice listing off some tekkie something or others, then right back to the head. Not much happens in terms of structural creativity, a legitimate weakness since the album is predicated upon mathematical electronic progressions.
“Extra Life” is an optimism-inspiring opener, pairing a blurting keyboard and warm electronic strings with a beat that made my neighbor pound the walls, reminiscent of New Order at its most hedonistic. None of Bernard Sumner’s crooning here, though — Master View relies mostly on beats and bleeps, with the exception of “Distorted Minds,” an uninspired collaboration with the rapper Juice Aleem, and “Perfect Bird,” a very New Romantic ballad with vocals sung by either a human or a machine (perhaps they’ve merged?).
But Master View isn’t really grinding any technology fascination/fascism conceptual axe here. The album is more a celebration of cool things retro, meaning early-‘70s funk and mid-‘80s electro-pop. But hasn’t the electroclash moment passed? Master View’s funky bass lines and gratuitous dance grooves make a nice party album, but they feel a little too easy and a little too over at the same time: a victim of the right sound, wrong year syndrome.