The streets glistened with a cold October sheen as fans tousled jackets loose, slipping through the double doors of Lido on Monday to witness Liars unleash its latest sonic offense, “Mess.” A tight-knit musical triangle consisting of Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill, and Julian Gross, Liars has an impressive seven records to its name, each a diverse island in the group’s eccentric electronic-punk archipelago. Berlin hoists a special flag in this landscape, with the 2006 album “Drum’s Not Dead” released after a period of creative blossoming in the city.
The support act of the evening was Vessel, a throbbing, pulsating performance that echoed like fists inside the belly of a ship’s hull. After a window of darkness, filtered with the forward shuffling of feet and DJ Eeuw’s record-spinning (closing with Willy Wonka’s spooky chant as he pushes his ferry off into the chocolate river), the true cacophony opened its palms. An eerie instrumental introduction to “Pro Anti Anti” ushered in frontman Angus Andrew. Clothed in white, a knitted garment covered his face, wrung with a tangle of colored string which seethed like a swarm of electric jellyfish tentacles as he shook his head around. Walls of bass and drums crashed in around the audience and the tension snapped as Andrew stormed back and forth across the stage, microphone to his obscured mouth, rolling eyes just visible beneath the wool. A few songs in, it was ripped off to reveal the twisting, distorted features of a face possessed by underworldly currents.
The set was a wonderfully havoc-riddled joyride through “Mess,” with “Vox Tuned D.E.D.,” “Mask Maker,” and “Mess on a Mission” all making explosive appearances. “Mess” certainly charts a different path to its predecessor “WIXIW”; the record is permeated with urgency, siren-like synths, and insistent drumbeats stirring up emanations of an action video game set in an underground bunker. The addition of the new material breathed and bellowed the show to an inferno that teased sweat from each brow, collecting its desired breath-expunging dew like a deranged taxman. The crowd was spread surprisingly thin in the face of the inflamed chaos; but this was more of a blessing than a hindrance, as it allowed space for hair and shoulders to be flung around in unshackled and rhythmically warped abandon.
Liars’ subtler elements have not been left behind in the wake of this self-induced catastrophic mess, and, like the crash and recess of a tide, the evening turned back to swoop into delicate water at a number of points. This included an ethereal rendition of “WIXIW”‘s highlight track “No.1. Against The Rush,” forgetting instancy for a moment to hint at melancholy. Before long, however, the mood was thrust back to its former pace. By the final segment of the show, Andrew’s keyboard had been knocked overboard twice and, during the encore of “Broken Witch,” he mounted the bass drum and squeezed it between his thighs, eyes boring into those of the percussive ship’s captain with an unbound and contagious ferocity.
Liars’ foothold as a creative and enigmatic musical force only seems to strengthen over time, and the trio’s ability to enrapture during live performances is incredible: where the lines on Liars’ musical map will next venture remains deliciously uncharted.