Desperation never sounds as pretty as it does on “Side of the Road,” the third track of Languis’ fifth full-length album, The Four Walls. The Los Angeles duo creates electronic music that features an even balance of live instruments and spacey sound effects filtering in and out of the compositions. On The Four Walls, Languis has managed to capture a lush somber array of melody and gentle pulsing beats. The chorus of the third track broadly encompasses the mood of the album, as a hushed vocal recounts unfortunate self-discovery: “I feel so sad and then I realize that I have everything I want / And still feel sad.” This notion addresses the confinement described by the LP’s title, but Languis’ aptitude for exploration pushes outside of the genre’s confining walls.
Languis is mostly Marcos Chloca and Alejandro Cohen, two gentlemen who grew up in Argentina but relocated to Los Angeles. Chloca and Cohen have been recording for their own label, Simballrec, since the late nineties. On Plug Research, the record falls alongside releases by Dntel, aka Jimmy Tamborello, who coincidentally landed a spot on the contributor list for The Four Walls. Unlike Tamborello’s Postal Service project, Languis makes room for atmospheric instrumental numbers where layers of sound and Stone Roses-esque melodies roll over both electronic beats and some live drums. The room made for these excursions also offsets the confinement the title suggests, and some of the quiet vocals are layered with so much reverb that they sound as if they were recorded in a wide-open cathedral.
The duo’s sound reaches notable peaks when they allow themselves to trek past their affection for the electro-pop of the 1980s. Though The Four Walls is not merely a throwback to the era of Scott Baio and Reaganomics, significant aspects of the album were probably groundbreaking a while back. Fortunately, Languis tastefully pays homage to bands like the Smiths and Ride, using delicate guitar finger-picking and the blips and bleeps that ushered Switched On onto many collectors’ shelves. The Four Walls is a sometimes quiet, sometimes danceable and often lovely album that stretches far past the title’s proposed limits.