New Spirit by PVT (2017)

Image result for New Spirit by PVTFormed around the talented Sydney-born Pike brothers, Richard and Laurence, Pivot (as they were then called) looked set to achieve great things towards the end of the 2000’s. Their first two albums, 2005’s Make Me Love You and 2008’s O Soundtrack My Heart, were met with widespread acclaim, with their second Warp-released LP receiving nods of approval from the likes of Battles and Brian Eno, among others. Their intricate blend of dark instrumental post and math rock with sci-fi electronics also translated well on stage, earning them a reputation which resulted in offers to support Gary Numan, Arctic Monkeys and Sigur Rós on their tours of Australia.

However, after being forced to remove the vowels from their name in 2010 due to a legal challenge from an American band, the trio which also includes Dave Miller seemed to lose their way. 2010’s Church With No Magic saw the introduction of vocals and a change in musical direction towards dark neo-psychedelia, while 2013’s Homosapien featured a confused blend of post-punk and synth-pop. Both albums were met with mixed reviews, and while they gained some new fans, PVT were virtually unrecognisable to anyone who had heard their earlier work.

It’s now been four years since we last heard from the trio. The break clearly served them well as they sound more unified than they have done for almost a decade. New Spirit is billed as their most political album thus far, said to be inspired by “the divisive politics and irrational fear” of their home country (it’s not just Europe and the U.S. where the right is resurgent). But unlike other recent politically engaged electronica that we’ve heard from the likes of ANOHNI and Austra, the politics on PVT’s fifth album are less obvious, with the focus being more on the music than the message.

There’s certainly plenty to enjoy as the band rediscover their mojo with an eclectic blend of electronica that’s experimental but also grounded in pop and rock aesthetics. Album centre-piece ‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend’ builds and transitions slowly over nine-minutes with its trance-like repetition, filtered vocals and ambient textures. ‘Kangaroo’ is an intelligent a blend of dance-pop, sci-fi electronics and live drums which is very reminiscent of their earlier work. The same can also be said when it comes to ‘Salt Lake Heart’ and the instrumental interlude ‘Fool In Rain II’ (a follow-up to a track from O Soundtrack My Heart).

Lead single ‘Another Life’ is one of the more obviously political moments on the album, finding vocalist/producer Richard Pike conveying his dissatisfaction with Australia’s political ruling class over an innovative Yeasayer-like future-pop sound. ‘New Spirit’ also sees PVT continuing to experiment with some Preoccupations-like electronic-tinged post-punk, but this time more successfully than they did on their last album. However, the slow-paced darkness of ‘Murder Mall’ and the sci-fi electro-funk of ‘Fake Sun in China’ prove the most difficult to tracks warm to, particularly the latter which ends the album by highlighting that lyrics aren’t always their strong point with the line: “It looks like science fiction, but it’s science fact”.

Key Tracks: Another Life; Kangaroo

Weakest Tracks: Murder Mall; Fake Sun In China

Released: 17th February 2017

Label: Felte

Genres: Electronic Rock

Rating: 75%

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