Alt-Country gurus Lambchop have rebranded themselves for HeCTA, a fresh and enjoyable mix of electronic grooves and solid songwriting. The Diet pays respects to the more interesting sides of electronic music, past and present through Detroit, Berlin, the UK and beyond, touching on a number of sub-genres, from glitchy techno to ambient IDM, downtempo grooves, bassy DnB breaks and more. Just don’t think this is just a pastiche project–HeCTA manage to sound fresh and organic, laid back, introspective and danceable.
Frontman Kurt Wagner’s signature approach to songwriting via cryptic lyrics and mumbled delivery are all still present and work well in this new context. In fact, one of the better aspects of The Diet is that it finds a perfect balance between textured ambience, interesting beats and traditional song structure. While you can tell that Wagner and Co. are still dipping their toes into electronic production, they are well acquainted with the genres, making for a record that is both enjoyable and convincing. Though it often plays into the “depressed white men make pretty, interesting and overthought music (e.g. Wilco, The National, Radiohead) it rarely comes off as obnoxious since it sounds expressive and genuine. “We Are Glistening” is one of the top offenders (half-mumbled nonsense over a simple, repeating melody), but the emotional backing track more than makes up for it.
The overall sound of the record is smooth and dynamic, with gorgeous arrangements (especially when the minimalist woodwinds and strings wash in), gritty layers of glitched rhythms, echoing vocals and off the wall samples (see “The Concept”). While there are few, if any moments that are over the top, sexy or surprising, there’s enough contrast and variation to maintain interest across all nine songs. Rather than a repetitious onslaught of vicious beats, The Diet is dynamic, with high peaks, deep valleys and a slow-burn approach, where every element does exactly what it needs without overstaying its welcome.
Surprisingly, the most jarring moments are both the opening and closing tracks. Opener “Till Someone Gets Hurt” begins with an irritatingly aggressive four on the floor techno beat before quickly building interest and melody, transforming into a lush introduction to the rest of the record. Conversely, the closer is a gorgeous electro track featuring strings and background vocals ripped right from The Beach Boys which work surprisingly well, but unfortunately end the album on an almost too-chill note, making the listener crave some closure or catharsis.
These are minor gripes for an all around impressive debut. While The Diet has some great grooves, it’s probably too mellow for most mainstream dance clubs, though that’s probably not a bad thing. HeCTA have made a point to study all the current classic sub-genres of EDM, and in doing so have found a sound that is both genuine and enjoyable.