Sydney’s experimentalists return with their fourth album and it’s quite a change from the old Pivot days.
Oh no, I hear you mutter, not another one of these trendy new bands that don’t do lowercase or vowels. In PVT’s case however it wasn’t trend-jumping that landed them with a name that sounds like a type of wood glue, but a rival Pivot who took exception to the Australian’s use of the name. Annoying for a band who’d already made two albums, in which echoes of Neu! sat alongside the twitchy electronica of the contemporary Warp Records roster which they joined in 2008, but it also seemed quite apt as it marked a time of transition. On their third – and first as PVT – 2010’s “Church With No Magic” vocals started to appear in the previously wholly instrumental mix. It would be interesting to see where they went next.
The answer? Somewhere between 1979 and 1982, it seems. You wouldn’t know at first: opening track “Shiver” still has the DNA of early seventies Düsseldorf running through it, though it’s less “Neu! 2” and more “Autobahn”, all arpeggio bleeps and a somewhat disembodied voice track. Now we all know that one of the destinations of that motorway was synthpop, and this seems to be the direction PVT have taken. Rather strange, twisted synthpop – and it turns out they’re very good at it. Where on “Church…” Richard Pike still appeared rather uncertain as a vocalist, here he’s found his sound and it’s straight out of early eighties Sheffield, of that clutch of people (admittedly not all from Sheffield, although a fair few of them were) who were often not natural singers in the traditional sense but who turned this into a positive.
The title’s a clue, maybe. Homosapien. Human, but from a scientific perspective. The title track itself is a perfect hybrid of man and machine, the vocal chopped and processed and as much rhythm as melody over clanking beats; it sounds simultaneously like loads of other things and nothing else at all, and should ensure that the word “experimental” retains its place in pretty much every shortform description of the band. Elsewhere the experiments do have some more recognisable components: the repeat intonation of “I am electric” gives the dark, intoxicating dirge of “Electric” an almost Numanoid feel; there are echoes of Japan – the band, not the country – in “New Morning”; while on “Cold Romance” eerie robo-soul floats over shapeshifting bass and fractured percussion.
That’s not to say this is some pastiche period piece, though, far from it. The flickering 21st century electronics and overlapping textures of the Warp years (this is their first for Felte) still permeate the sound – and the result sometimes finds unexpected and rather varied contemporaries: “Vertigo”, with its pure pop tune and splintered electrobeats could be some slightly odd Hurts remix; the arpeggio bleeps return on the closing “Ziggurat” along with some beautiful synth sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Ulrich Schnauss album. All of these things are good things, by the way.
It never feels inconsistent, either. It’s one of those albums where the more you listen to it the more you find in it, and the more it all seems to make sense. Recorded in isolation in a remote corner of Australia (and when they say remote out there, they really mean remote), deliberately removed from most distractions, the overall effect is that some wildly imaginative people with excellent record collections and no small amount of their own inventiveness have tried to make a pop record. Listen back to “Church With No Magic” now and the pointers are there; if it sometimes sounded like a band in transition, with “Homosapien” PVT have arrived.
All words by Cath Aubergine, more writing by Cath on Louder Than War can be found here. Tracks from the album are being previewed on different sites across the internet in the days before release – most of these should still be active:
“Evolution” premiering on Who The Hell on Wednesday, January 30
“Electric” premiering on One A Day on Thursday, January 31
“Cold Romance” premiering on Pigeons And Planes on Friday, February 1
“Love & Defeat” premiering on Your Music Radar on Saturday, February 2
“Homosapien” premiering on The Line Of Best Fit on Sunday, February 3
“Vertigo” premiering on Indie Shuffle on Monday, February 4
“New Morning” premiering on Music From Go To Woah on Tuesday, February 5
“Casual Success” premiering on Circle.Square.Triangle on Wednesday, February 6
“Ziggurat” premiering on IS050 on Thursday, February 7