Album Review: PVT, Homosapien

PVT, a between-homes Australian/London pseudo-post-dubstep 3-piece, formerly going by vowel-heavy Pivot, craft a fresh brand of electronic dance, one slightly dissimilar to conventional dance music’s euphoria or contagious quality. And on their fourth LP Homosapien (only their second album under current incarnation PVT), the lads continue in the same vein as their predecessor Church With No Magic, with its gloomy synth-driven and bass-heavy sound.While it does contain a contemporary electronic grounding, one similar to the Midnight Juggernauts or Presets only fresher, Homosapien tends to borrow more generously from the 80s, Depeche Mode being a clear point of inspiration. And it is with the latter’s brooding slowburn tone that Homosapien can leverage itself and stand out from the pack as an album.However, from a track-to-track perspective, the music can be seen to either hit the mark perfectly or understandably fall on more deaf ears of today’s listeners than its influences would suggest.Case in point: third track “Electric” contains a Depeche Mode swagger, with Richard Pike vocally like David Gahan, and Matt Bellamy (minus the annoying factor). Following suit, the music emulates Muse minus the pretentious operatic endings and instead displaying that PVT can control and harness their tunes. On the choruses, with the backing of ahh-ahh-ahhs, the song reaches a Snowman base, not necessarily a popular sound.Before that even, “Evolution” creates a hybrid of 80s and 90s synth sounds, a less-is-more Midnight Juggernauts, with the live dance-beat drumming and instrumentation. The chorus here though isn’t even singable for a pit of punters, just a baritone line repeated from Pike. Even when Pike does display a vocal range on “Cold Romance”, keying listeners into a more damaged side of him, it’s not the sort of tone to reach top 10 on the Hottest 100, like an Alt-J, for example. This is despite the music similarly effervescently shining from beginning to end.Even the fuzzed bass-driven “Casual Success”, the upbeat straightforwardness of Grizzly Bear-esque first display-of-the-album “Nightfall” or the post-dubstep stylings of “New Morning” don’t command a strong engagement with the audience—the difference what would be a sing-a-long, or a bopping of your head while mouthing the lyrics.When the stars do align though and PVT finds the balance between their brooding and the crowd’s willingness to sing/dance, they do so very well. Take the standout track “Love & Defeat”, a throbbing and heady number that reminisces as an electro ballad with its incredible chorus, one bereft of clichés. The 80s style isn’t overbearing either, and doesn’t lend from post-punk or new-wave. Combined with the crescendo-on-high vocal work, it becomes a performance only a trace line away from “I Want To Break Free” by Queen. For “Vertigo” too, the ethereal toy tinkering sounds and clear vocal cut come together finely, in a positive mix of trance and post-dubstep. Then halfway through, it climaxes to a dizzying height of slow dancing ecstasy.Being in a genre where energy between the artist and the pit should remain kinetic, PVT play their music as catharsis foremost rather than fist pumps. Which is how music traditionally should be—revealing and from the heart, rather than a cash cow for groupies and fame. And while this album may be the Triple J Album of the Week, it feels like it will follow a trajectory of being forgotten to the everyday listener. Too bad for those listeners, as it’ll probably end up an underrated David Claridad

February 16th 2013
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