Thursday, 19 July 2012

Passion Pit - Gossamer

 

Manners - the 2009 debut of five-piece electronic outfit Passion Pit - was without a doubt one of the year's stand out albums. Though the tagging and the dressage of collective synthesizers and multi-tonal instrumentation, suggested this was yet one more record in the salvo of indie bands taking centre stage near the end of the noughties, the truth is that the album was a wondrous deliverance of anything, but. Showcasing a height of colour without being too blinding, and a darkening sound of provoking lyricism without coming across as egotistical, the band marked themselves a brightening highlight in American pop. Three years later and several months of speculation as to when it finally sees the light of day, the band return with their eagerly-awaited follow-up, Gossamer - an album that continues the band's elicit use of synthesizers and danceable beats, and expands upon it with more flashing arrays of frontman Michael Angelakos' oxymoronic cryptic simplicity of song-writing.

'Take A Walk' opens Gossamer in a stampede of organs and righteous drum hits that soon give way for Angelakos' multi-layered accompanied vocals to sift through the twitches of guitars and percussion thereafter. 'Practice isn't perfect, with the market cuts and loss.' Pit's vocalist swerves in shades of blossomed tone, 'I remind myself that times could be much worse' There is still the continuing undertone of more melancholic subject matter yet not only do the band in a sort of shrouding fog of electric haze and instrumentation, but if anything, the lyrics feel even more impacting because of said approach. And the follow-on of this marching tempo only emphasizes the directness the track imposes itself as. 'I'll Be Alright' by contrast is much less mannered and constructive in the solitary one-at-a-time manner. Beats are much more livelier and vocals too provide a much endearingly energetic muster in their undertones. But the real beauty and gem of this piece is the quirky, and quite crazy, letting go of its chorus hooks, break-offs of percussion and radiant synthesizers in time with the muttering of chipmunk nonsense in equal precision.

The main stand-out - and one that has to be merited as both an enjoyment and a revelation of mine - is that the band, while encompassing full-fledged party tempos in their compositions, still manage to find the space and timing to explore. This exploration comes in the shape of moments where vocals feel a lot more meaningful and less directed at the atmosphere of dancing, glitter and noise, and more on the hard-hitting sentience that lyricism can often strike so hard at. 'Constant Conversations' is one of these such tracks. Despite its slow-paced low-pitch, hand-clapping, head-nodding pacing - and even more-so excusing the whirling and twirling of dreamy harmonization in the background - Angelakos' vocals deliver to us much more than just some James Blake-esque pallette of composition, albeit slightly more weighted and direct. 'You can listen if you want/You can listen if you don't' is eventually spilled out, which only magnifies this delivery of lyrics on relationships, break-up and the resulting aftermath, into more direct and interpersonal perspectives. And all the while, the beat keeps thumping and the harmony remains fresh and surreally uplifting.

Surprisingly - or unsurprisingly if you've listened to their debut enough to realize the truth of the matter - this is an album that doesn't dictate such simple dictations of happy or melancholic. Sad, in whatever context you place it, may not exist but I can certainly feel some form of longing emotion seep through the likes of 'Mirrored Sea' - the frosted glass that are these mountains of drum beats and polynomial hooks, creating this often confusing, often double-take aroma of taking something at face value and then realizing something totally different in the following phase. There is of course, the catchy hooks and appliance of vocoder voices and electronic leads...yet the second way through - or even as the track finally reaches its climax - there's this sensation of wanting (hoping) to find the emotive reasoning for these sounds, and indeed, finding them. It's good to see then, that electronic music - or in this case, electronic-influenced indie rock - is finally getting its fair share of usage in telling a story and invoking some sense of drama or anxiousness. While the warming textures and progression is indeed more suited to the interior of clubs or halls, Angelakos has to be credited for bringing the band's sound out into more clearer (and as a result, more vulnerable) environments.

Even with tracks like 'Hideaway' and 'Love Is Greed', which in fact feel a lot more house-influenced and nostalgic for the dance clubs of foreign grounds, there's no denying the deepening longing ringing through the sparkle of keys and percussion throughout. Angelakos once more allows his shifting juxtaposition of voice lead the listener along this merry road of percussion and synthesized melodies. And meanwhile, throughout it all, there are these undertones of something much more impacting if the audience is willing to dig beyond just the surface of glittered palettes and a colorful collectiveness of group sound. 'Where We Belong' while ends on neither a bang nor a whimper, simply put, is a bright invitation to early 90's beats, smothered in a helping of Pit's spacious ambience and shyly-treading strings, present here on the album's closer. Quite possibly the band's most simplest execution of electronic sound on the album, its deliverance while having a set limitation, give Angelakos' vocals the well-timed opportunity of adding an appreciative flurry of tone and pitch that only emphasizes the emotive perspective this album comes across in.

Most bands that fixate themselves on delivering this similar category of sound, usually fall into the trap of being either one-trick ponies - in regards to the layering of electronics or the rhythmic instrumentation that may accompany it - or simply limited in variation of their sound and how it hopes to spark the listener's musical and non-musical means of perception. Passion Pit, however, have come from seemingly nowhere in the space of three years, and now, two highly-respected albums that showcase both an enjoyment and a longing through their music's content and context in equal measure. 'Gossamer' may not exactly conjure an instantaneous reaction to the general crowds of music fans. But to those who both love this particular genre or even love the prospect of a slow-burning sense of realization, this album will not only meet that target, it'll exceed it. Listen to it once and you'll enjoy the music. Listen to it multiple times however, and you'll love the honesty.
~Jordan

8.5