Review: The Presets – Pacifica

We’ve been a big fan of Australia’s The Presets since the very beginning. There’s something oddly beguiling, something pathologically weird but also accessible about this duo and despite pretty radical shifts (one might say lurches) between albums, one listen to anything they release and it’s instantly recognizable as The Presets.

On Pacifica, they have taken another big shift, this time in the direction of the clubs. And like everything else they touch it works in their own inimitable way.

Dance music is front and centre here. They’ve never entirely embraced the dance side of their persona until now so it’s a curious reveal. But like their previous two albums, while not an easy first listen, one is rewarded upon repeat spins.

Club-style music can often betray a repetitive, purely syncopated sound, but The Presets have developed a sound that incorporates Julian Hamilton’s peerless vocal with clever loops, synth washes, even hand claps and the result  is as close to what pure joy set to music would sound like. Listen to “Fall”, despite some subversively dark lyrics, and one can’t help but smile a little. Lead single “Youth in Trouble” and it’s spin-off (and actually, creatively superior) song “AO” are awesomely constructed power-synth tracks. With it’s vaguely African-influenced verse-rhythm “Fast Seconds” is pure originality (when was the last time one could really say that about a dance track?). Then, as we’ve seen on each of their albums, they demonstrate their ability to pull out a lovely old-school pop song like the pretty “It’s Cool”, or “Promises”. It’s a mix of styles but they somehow manage to make it sound united and of one theme. They’ve done it three times now and as a full package Pacifica may be their strongest collection to date.

Many think of electronic music as inherently happy – boppy, blippy pop – yet a disproportionate amount of electronic music is maudlin, dark, heavy and often depressing. Now as a listener who happens to really love maudlin, dark, heavy and often depressing electronic music this is no knock, but boy is it ever fun to sometimes stumble on an album that is spritely, fun and full of engrained movement. Their lyrics often belie the melody which forces the listener to really pay attention, rewarding the ear and the mind at the same time. It’s a real treat and a genuine success, yet another for this insanely creative band.

Watch: Youth in Trouble

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