Review: Lia Mice – The Sampler As A Time Machine


Trends tend to circle back every two decades or so. In regard to electronic music and popular culture, synthy electropop originated in the 80s and became particularly popular in the 00s (see Daft Punk and Lady Gaga). Soon after, a rebellious counterpart called electroclash was developed, fusing new wave, techno and artsy performance.
Since the mid 2010s, electro has dominated, perhaps more so in London that anywhere else. It is here where Australian-born musician Lia Mice moved in 2015. Influenced by the city’s nightlife, Mice’s third LP “The Sampler As A Time Machine” is noticeably different from her previous releases. With experimental flair, she enriches her experimental pop with punchy techno beats and funky electro, producing eight tracks for dancing.
Mice’s influences include one of the pioneers of electronic music, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, or as NME described them – “the British Kraftwerk”. For this album, Mice approaches each track with a goal of using her sampler in a novel way, pushing its limits. Focusing on the idea of instrumental experimentation and manipulation of recorded material, she creates an album of  great sonic variety and detail. The samples, most only a couple seconds long, were recorded in her home studio in London, at a cave in Malaysia and in a convent in France.
From the workshop, Mice also seems to have inherited her interest in time travel, which she explores not only through the realm of science fiction, but also through psychology and neuroscience. “Which Memories Make It?” explores our sleep and “We Are The Beat” considers the concept of a generation. “Overwrite The Past” looks at the influence of memory on our past and future. In this track, Mice manipulates her voice to make it sound low and otherworldly as if coming deep from the unconsciousness, where most of our memories are stored. Such memories are able to affect our current and future behaviour, even though they are difficult to access for a conscious recollection. 

The album was produced with the exact same gear Mice uses to perform live. She designed some of the instruments herself, such as a reel-to-reel tape machine hacked into a digital tape looper, which hints at the workshop’s tape manipulations in the 60s and popular 80s mixtapes. During her sets, Mice samples her voice live and “your ear will be going back in time to the same place, only a few seconds before, so you could get a bit of deja vu”, she explains during her recent performance at Tate Modern. 

Less than a month after the album’s release, Mice has already produced three music videos to accompany audio with visuals. The productions of “Marconi's Eternal Tone Cloud” and “We Are The Beat” are blissfully odd, but the latest is different. The rhythmic song titled “Human Being” soundtracks a montage of her family archive, showing children at play. The result is tenderly personal and relatable. The vocals sound robotic throughout the album, but in this case her voice remains humanesque, which makes this futuristic, cosmic record feel especially universal and close to home.