Having previously written music with effect-saturated vocals, the Swedish quartet have gone for instrumental, more synth-driven pieces this time around, apparently due to Kristian Karlsson’s (bass, vocals) recent heavy touring schedule playing keys with Cult of Luna. Guitarist Gustav Almberg has commented that “I guess this has helped us to take the band into a bit of a new direction sound wise“.
Richly-layered, warm and emotive the album opens on the thumpingly heavy “Ikaros”. The synth fizzes, the drums pulse and the guitar fires off arpeggios to keep the whole piece drifting along. There’s short snatches of something akin to 80s computer games lurking in there too all leading to the maniacally crazed sandstorm finish.
Moving through the driving thrust and distorted bass of “Off The Beaten Path” we alight at the oblique Giorgio Moroder-esque synthetic wash, poppish dynamics and cinematic trickery of “Monolith”. Here, the music begins to stab and test the listener to create a force that unites the pacier groove of the kind displayed by Station-era Russian Circles with the dark tones and blackened crush of the sorely-missed ISIS.
It does become apparent as you dig deeper that the subtlety of this particular instrumental album often means the music slips into classic rhythmic shapes (four-four beats, elongated stretches without rise, fall or melody, etc.). In these moments, you’d usually find lyrics or instrumental solos. Here, pg.lost have resiliently left their music undeveloped and, yes, uncluttered as it is, each piece is given room to breathe. It’s certainly a matter of taste whether you buy into that styling though. I have to confess I crave a more developed, instantaneous instrumental sound but that’s just me.
Stretching 7 songs over a 53-minute runtime, the band certainly rely on the listener taking time out to appreciate the music. Those with short attention spans need not apply. It’s just too easy to freewheel past the gentler or more simplistic tracks like the title-track or “Deserter”.
Happily they do like a good rumble to finish up so you’ll probably be shaken awake for the stark, bristling ambience of “A Final Vision”. It’s a joy that is every bit the equal of the wonderful, naturalistic flow that If These Trees Could Talk seem to generate so effortlessly.
At the end of the day, despite its impressive dynamic range and lush sonics, it doesn’t really add a great deal of new ideas to this rapidly-expanding genre. Despite that, it’s still a thoroughly solid addition from a record label that is getting a habit for polishing rough diamonds.
(6.5/10 John Skibeat)