AUSTRALIAN TRIO PVT place their haunting melodies atop an often traditional-sounding late ‘70s recipe of synthesizer arpeggios and half the time real drums, on their fourth album Homosapien. Back then the burgeoning synth sounds were at worst an interesting novelty and at best opened up an arterial route that lead directly to innovation. We were given plenty of both, and in hindsight, what percentage lay in which camp is a matter of taste and opinion.
Electronic pop acts could often get away with flimsy songwriting back then and rely on the new sound to pull them through. But that safety net is long gone, eradicated by years of listener familiarity. It’s much harder to be relevant in the genre now, and unless it’s dance or ambient music, the songs need to be substantial. Easy to say, harder to do. But with PVT I sense a desire to be different while still belonging to a tradition. The record doesn’t stand still. It weaves in and out of reverent but slender homages to the past and a forward-looking vintage/future mutation.
The opener ‘Shiver’ attests to the latter with its auto-harmonised (or is it ring modulator?) vocal distortions delivering their monk-like mode-clashing chants over rolling toms and compressed clap reverb. Song two, ‘Evolution’ moves to the past with the introduction’s synthesizer wails and laser-like firing rounds sounding like a total sample lift from Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene Pt. II’. Nice reference. The obvious single, ‘Electric’, simultaneously infectious and unnerving, shows promise but fails to detonate, fizzling out like Nine Inch Nails coming down off steroids.
‘Love And Defeat’ gives us an untapped retro moment of Hugh Padgham/Phil Collins gated snare drum which tickles the fancy a little, but not enough to stop me from wanting to skip to the next song. And then, halfway through the proceedings, it all goes cold. Noodling 808 patterns, old hat hip-hop voice snippets and uninspired lyrics like ‘…Do you want me, I’m yours…’ populate the rest of the gradually deteriorating set. The possibilities hinted at with the bell-like flourishes of the closing instrumental ‘Ziggurat’ are immense, but the cheap and out of tune cello sample renders it unlistenable, and the album wimpers off collapsing in a heap of its own material even the 21st century Radiohead might reject.
The audio mixes are nicely done, but again, at the halfway point their earlier cinemascope begins to narrow down to a bland mono-istic dimension. Still, I wouldn’t give up on PVT. There are clever minds at work here and the next thing could just as likely blow this out of the water. It’s almost like the budget ran out and they had to finish quickly. I’d rather think that’s what happened. Anything can happen in this crazy game where you can find yourself at the mercy of others making decisions that skew your original vision, or the work just loses its way for whatever reason. Them’s the breaks. It’s a shame. But that’s homosapiens for ya. PETER KEARNS
Sound = 3/5
Music = 3/5