Acollective – Pangea review

AcollectiveSeveral weeks ago we posted our review of Acollective’s latest music video, for Happiest of All Memorial Days, the forth track of their second album, Pangea. Recorded in an old shoe factory, the band’s follow up to their 2011 debut, Onwards, is a documentation of the plethora of cultures they’ve been exposed to in the journey from guerrilla street performances to international fame. Despite the strong clashes in influences and directions of the record, Acollective wanted the essence of the environment to remain a part of the release, meaning the album was recorded live.

Idan Rabinovici, the band’s “leader”, describes opening track, OTM, as “a celebration of being left behind, of being insulated from the outside world but deeply affected at the same time – in a state of perpetual limbo. Nothing is more dangerous than staying put, and nothing is more heartbreaking than running away.” However you may wish to interpret that cryptic statement, it’s hard to resist the alluring Brand New-esque sobriety of the opening vocals, which, built up with intermittent and falteringly humane percussion, drastically switches the pace to something that could try and pass as pop. The message from this is clear – the album is never quite what you expect.

A quiet opening to Breakapart fools the listener again, with a burst of sound breaking the track into a chorus that would shake the venue at a gig. It’s impossible to simplify or break apart this album, as each explosion of noise holds so many elements that fit together in a shockingly beautiful manner, and isolating each instrument or sound would do no justice to the mood of the piece – it is very much an album to be appreciated and absorbed, but not analysed. When it comes to moods, of course, single Happiest of All Memorial Days holds a strong one – despite the feeling of almost overpowering darkness, there is a definite sound of hope and contentment that perseveres throughout.

The simplistic and sharp opening to Fine is the best example of how the album employs the use of layers throughout the tracks to build up from basic percussion to an overpowering sound. What appealed to me most regarding this track is the notably blank tone in the vocals – the flippancy clashes so spectacularly with the instrumental, it’s hard not to be drawn to it. In contrast, At Least focuses more detail to the vocal work with a soft and optimistic – albeit touching on melancholy in places – voice ringing out over understated music. Custom brings about another change in tone – a guitar and voice combination to Ben Howard mixes with the returning lyricism of Brand New to form a lull in the pace of the album, and a moment of focus on the songwriting.

From acoustic slow numbers to something that sounds like a car-advert soundtrack – Beating Heart Cadavers is loud, bold, and despite a slight drop in volume part way through, for the most part a statement; this is a track to be heard. Guitars that conjure up images of Western films alternate focus with longing, pleading lyrics to form I Can’t, with the music breaking down and building up again in a tight and almost haunting manner. Had It Once adds even more confusion as to the influences – what one minute sounds like it is on its way to breaking into a sing-a-long chorus, the next minute hold Eastern-style influences prevailing, a refreshing reminder of the unpredictability of the record.

Pancakes is hardly a usual song title, but the combination of a friendly title and the childhood toy-ballerina sound that looms over the majority of the track, an enticing sound is created, which continues into penultimate track, We Never. A chanting backdrop to the track lapses into clear and singular vocals, which in turn edge on distorted, and loop around. A fluidity is notable in this track, with its contrasts blending and merging to hold several voices at once, and the varying instrumental takes a backseat, before closing track Locket brings it to the forefront of the song again. The control here is enthralling, both the music and vocals as straightforward as the other, yet still leaving you hanging on till the end of the album.

This album is one that cannot be simply summed up in words; it is a must listen – for everyone.

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