Monday, 10 February 2014

The Glitch Mob - Love Death Immortality


'No wonder you're so stubborn/Nobody ever made you dig deeper' guest vocalist Aa Volkman professes in the opening [few] lines to second track Our Demons, before adding: 'No wonder you've got demons/Everything you ever did is coming back around.' While it'd be drastic and unfair to call The Glitch Mob out as enacting some kind of repetiveness or unsavoury act in their past work (be it one album and a string of EPs), it is by all means entirely fair to bring to light the double-edged sword that has come to define (whether that be in helping or hindering it) modern times on the spectrally-wide expanse of commercial electronica that EDM has shifted more towards. The thing about The Glitch Mob though, of the production trio of Josh 'Ooah' Mayer, Justin 'Boreta' & Edward 'ediT' Ma, is that from out 2010's shattering blast of electronics in Drink The Sea, the LA-based collective had a sense of exploration and purpose in their glitchy, gargantuan sounds aside from pulsatting rhythms and head-shaking reasons to 'lose one's self' to the music. Perhaps I was myself intrigued - if not overly convinced - the Mob had something going for them in as much their art direction and visual link-in's, as I was the sounds, but trawling through the daily-come-weekly-come-monthly assortment of cryptic clues, image macros and teasing unveils to what would become four-years-later's Love Death Immortality, if what was present couldn't be defined as anticipation, it most certainly had all the credentials of being designated in some form/kind of heightened expectation.

So it's four years down from the point of the trio's debut - a time when the 'dance' was being put back into Electronic Dance Music - that we find the Mob circumnavigating the LED-scurry and all-the-way-to-eleven extreme EDM can often entail, be it live or recording in equal measure. And while I myself haven't particularly grown attached or accustomed to the foilage and repetoire this sub-genre often brings with it, on initial view, The Glitch Mob do at least carry with them some backing that their three-strong focus and mentality hasn't all just been showmanship and empty husks. Indeed, Mindbeast opens with the same grated friction between amplified guitars, melodically-caught synthesizers and pulsating beats. While it would be naive to ignore the obvious trademark bass swerves and dubstep-like production being used - more often than what the Mob might be used to - the fact that we can take away as much from the synthesizer leads and up-down tension, provides some evidence not everything strives for the big stage. But this is where things change. Like with the rise-and-fall build-up's trance too has mastered-come-rehashed over the years, Our Demons is but the first of what becomes this album's frustrations and problems. Initially proceedings are promising; beats are slightly more contained, flickering strings and fractured processes are evident but not dominating. And then we're treated to almost the exact same string of drumbeat placements and exubereant screams of synths and you get the feeling this is not the emotive, perhaps orchestrated variant we could possibly have been promised in the first minute or so...and which pops up later on in the track.

This is by no means a problem; take note, had this been but an end to justify the means, the variants, small as they were/are, would not have stood as so obviously. Skullclub too has that same anthemic readiness to let rip and burst at its seams, but given how anyone (and I mean anyone) can hazard a guess where and how the drop will take place and more than likely guess correctly, is a worrying sign that Drink The Sea's ambition and scope has been altogether quashed to stad on just the one solitary podium. A small consolation lies in its latter half; the inevitable easing before the second round of blasting electronics are much more tolerable, even embedding on the listener's ambition to feel involved. Even vocals, contribution or not - while not exactly new in the shroud of EDM madness - on this record do at least come away with the tag of being some of the Mob's more interesting additions about their seemingly guns-blazing approach throughout. Becoming Harmonius, with vocals by Metal Mother, offer not just a striking contrast between the more ethereal mystery of the former, but even at its harshest and pouncing of deliveries, Mother's vocals do enstill a degree of second-thinking albeit at a less-than-desired level given how low in the pecking order she lies on the mix desk. At its heart there is some degree of soul and ambition, there's no denying the Mob can balance electronic composition with audible design.

Even when that conclusion is flipped on its head as has been shown on Can't Kill Us; when the trio prefer their electronics to hold all the responsibility of minimizing to maximum effect, the shift between moments can produce respectable results regardless of how fashionably extroverted it may seem. But when this isn't the case, and The Glitch Mob revert to this shunting such glitch-treated percussion and bass in the listener's face, it's difficult not to take a step back and realize just how safe and, as awkward as this is to say, desperate the trio are to make every one of their tracks paradoxically beat each other on the dancefloor yet all be as equally strivulent and engaging as the next. The way I'm torn between embracing the quirky funk on I Need My Memory Back and the beats before me, just leaves questions on what exactly is not just the leading element, but what sort of rhythmic intent is being laid down here. Which is a shame because on their own, both layers actually appear interesting on their own accord, but together the track enforces too much to engage with both parts at the same time. And by the point that Skytoucher leads onto, not only does this feel like a case where there's just too much going on, but increasingly as the Mob try to reinvogarate through extraction which in turn gets reintroduced into the mix, it becomes a simple case that we've seen this whole spectacle before.

Fly By Night Only receives credit when it's due by shaking things up somewhat, in allowing the rhythm and interplay with Yaarroh's vocals to enlist some kind of narrative into the song.Even the high-end synth lines appear more refreshed by a drastically more bubbling flair reminiscent of contemporary pop or even dance music of the past. There's also a flicker of the past thankfully in tracks like Carry The Sun that incorporate the same kind of marching drumroll that was present on debut, albeit for a moment before the descent once more into sugar-coated synth tweaks and directionless electro. Again, the downside is that while it's a 'neat feature' to see the Mob not forgetting percussion can be orchestrated in a slightly more liberating and purposeful way, its existence is snuffed out by the latter moments' descending not just into forced euphorics, but an electronic lead that, honestly, is without excitement and feels more a chore than an individual piece attempting to carry something new and different throughout. Beauty Of The Hidden does invoke some sense of emotive dialogue in its synth melody and vocal presence, but with the beats as strong and unchanged in their treatment as they are, what fascination is conjured by the track's cello strings or Sister Crayon's delicate voice, is ruined once more by the Mob's adamancy to define this track solely as something to blast out rather than fully embrace.

As I've hinted at in my opening, Drink The Sea didn't entirely capture me, but that doesn't mean it was by no means an effort that ended up bloated without substance or any real drive to its intended destination. What we uncover on Love Death Immortality is not only how linear and focused (as positive that might be in a majority of cases for other records) their objective is on making their album the most compact-yet-buldged dance album of this time, it's more clear to find the faults and lack of variance and experimentation with their sound, then there is the actual [loud] components making up most of this sophomore's intended attention-grabber. Whether similarly-intended irony or not, it's sad to find a guest vocalist speak more about the Mob's unfortunate (new-found) struggles in just a handful of blaringly-sung sentences than any review could hope to possibly sum up. I would like to come away from this record - on full experience for maybe one of the few, if not the last, times today - focusing on the tiny glimmers and consolidations of change and shake-up the trio do at least seem to know exist and/or feel are relevant to their formula, but if this is a direction The Glitch Mob hope to not just master, but conquer, let's just say their struggle leaves Everest looking no more than a meagre molehill.
~Jordan Helm

5.5

3 comments: