After a hiatus that had me worried that these guys would be the new Avalanches, the Presets have returned with their third full length LP, Pacifica, an album that unites all the things we previously loved about these Aussie stalwarts of dance music while at the same time entering a new sonic dimension.
The boys from Sydney have certainly done their research for the past four years. While previous albums from these electronic juggernauts have been filled to the brim with that recognisable Australian tinge, this record does depart from that in some respects, creating a more internationally friendly sound, combining elements of European electronic dance music with their own signature style.
You can hear all of this from the distinctive yell of front man Julian Hamilton on the opening track “Youth in Trouble”. The song starts out with a simple bass riff that builds and swells until it explodes into a downtempo dance drop. The song continues in a similar manner for the entirety of its six minutes. The absence of complex vocal melodies is refreshing in the contemporary dance scene.
In typical style the Presets completely backflip on what I just said on the following track, the single “Ghosts”. The track is driven by its vocal melody and is a certainly a stronger than a lot of other pop releases from this year. It’s certain to go right to the top of Triple J’s Hottest 100.
“Promises” is a disco track at heart that wouldn’t be out of place on the Scissor Sisters’ latest release. “Push” is as close as the boys get to a techno track and is probably the weakest track on the album. Lyrically, it’s a shameless club anthem about partying. Whilst it’s certainly in the top tier of its genre, it’s not particularly challenging in any musical respect.
The album doesn’t let up as it hits the halfway mark. From “Fall” to “It’s Cool”, the listener-friendly dance beats keep pumping. It’s refreshing that the duo don’t feel the need to throw in a slow track amongst the high-intensity dance anthems, instead continuing to pump out what they’re good at.
“A.O.” is an 80% rad track with a hook that will go off at any live gig they play. The reason it’s only 80% rad, though, is that it feels somewhat disjointed. The band really could have ended up with a “Barbara Streisand”-esque track with this one, but they neglected the defining trill of the track.
Depending on who you talk to this would be good or bad. For me, while I appreciate what they did in creating a more complex feel in what could have been a gimmicky track, I also feel like they’re in a genre where gimmicky is okay and they shouldn’t be afraid to embrace it.
The album draws to a close with “Fail Epic”. It may sound cruel, but the title should be flipped. The track doesn’t achieve what it needed to. Rather, it takes the album into a perpetual state of down tempo drabness, when it needed to lift and bring the album to the end with a bang.
It’s quite interesting how the track listing of an album can affect the listening experience. If the Presets had put “Fail Epic” after “It’s Cool”, as opposed to closing the album with it, it would have been much more effective. For me, the real record closer is “Fast Seconds”, which does everything you want a closer to do. It builds a continuous swell of dance beats for the first 4 minutes until it finally comes to its pinnacle.
To call this album a disappointment isn’t fair at all. It’s an apt follow up to Apocalypso in every respect. I’d say I was very impressed by the musicianship on display throughout the record. But it didn’t feel complete. The band have a knack of encapsulating the concept of the titles of their records within the tracks. Beams was the future of electronic dance and Apocalypso was the bridge between the menacing and the bright and colourful. Pacifica doesn’t really capture its title, it feels as though the duo have gotten bored in the production of this album and crafted a record which does show prowess, where as The duo have proven that they know their craft and when they tour the tracks on this album, we’ll see just how well that four-year wait paid off.