Church With No Magic
On third album 'Church With No Magic', the band formerly known as Pivot return with not just a new name but an evolution in sound, writes ANDREW MCMILLEN.
The further you get through Church With No Magic, the less it sounds like 2008’s O Soundtrack My Heart. That album - the band’s final release under the Pivot moniker, before ceding it to an American nu-metal band – stood at the intersection of rock and electronica, forming a remarkable amalgam of the two. Like O Soundtrack My Heart, Church With No Magic opens with a brief instrumental composition (‘Community’), but that’s where the comparison ends. Here, PVT are not just embracing a new name, but an evolution in sound.
‘Light Up Bright Fires’ seethes with twisted synth sounds and ominous, shape-shifting vocals. Yes, vocals. Richard Pike’s voice appears on most of the tracks here; its presence adds an extra layer of melody to the band’s output. The addition of vocals isn’t too surprising, considering the deep, wordless yawns that coloured O Soundtrack’s ‘Sing You Sinners’, yet the range displayed is quite extraordinary. In ‘Crimson Swan’, he favours a slowly-enunciated baritone that rises in line with the swelling instrumentation. In ‘Window’, his sustained delivery forms the central hook. Lyrically, Pike flits between the abstract (“All of God’s mysteries/Left upon my backseat” in ‘Light Up Bright Fires’) and self-affirmed certainties (“I won’t slip/I won’t fall/I won’t change” in ‘Window’). Despite the theologically provocative album title, it’s probably a red herring. “Oh, I subscribed/All our dreams died,” sings Pike in the title track, yet I get the feeling that he chose many of the words for their sounds, not their connotations.
“The latter half of the album ventures deep into experimental electronica, and never quite resurfaces.”
Richard Pike’s brother, Laurence, and Dave Miller complete the trio. Miller is mostly responsible for laptop and synthesiser wrangling, while Richard handles guitar and bass in addition to vocal duties. To attempt to intellectualise Laurence Pike’s drumming, however, is to miss the point entirely. Slotted between the warped electronica of his bandmates, Pike approaches the kit with an unorthodox vision: it’s not so much a rhythmic component as it is a lead instrument. ‘Light Up Bright Fires’ is played so loosely, so off-the-cuff that for the most part, it sounds like one big drum fill. Pike takes the playing of Australia’s best rock drummers - Jeffrey Wegener and Jim White - to an extreme neither of those players envisaged. He lends innovation and uniqueness to every project he’s involved in, but on Church, he exhibits his best work yet. Pike’s stickwork is the most compelling aspect of first single ‘The Quick Mile’, and indeed, most of the tracks here. As a drummer, he’s thrilling, unpredictable and peerless.
The latter half of the album ventures deep into experimental electronica, and never quite resurfaces. A sinister sense of unease pervades ‘Timeless’, which is built around a circular synthesiser motif, soaring vocals and delicate cymbal work. The cavernous snare echos and glacial sheets of synth in ‘Only The Wind Can Hear You’ contains shades of O Soundtrack’s dense closing track, ‘My Heart Like Marching Band’.
At 38 minutes, Church is PVT’s shortest full-length yet, and while it’s not as immediately enjoyable as the last, the stylistic departures displayed here see them striving toward a sound they’re wholly comfortable with.
PVT’s Church With No Magic is out July 16 through Warp/Inertia.