48.29 min • Modular Recordings • September 16, 2012
Dance music is everywhere at the moment – from David Guetta to Deadmau5, the mainstream has finally picked up on what the underground has been doing for the last ten years, and it’s good to see electronic acts getting more prominence. Since the amazing Are You The One was released in 2006, The Presets have been enjoying the rise in popularity of electronic music. Their debut album was a strong dance floor album with indie shades (the perfect East London album, at the time) and last album Apocalypso contained some of my favourite dance tracks of the past few years, and really put them on the commercial map. Now the Australian duo are back with a new album, but is it more of the same?
With the music taste abominable,
Man I’m worried sick for a youth in trouble –
sings Julian on ‘Youth In Trouble’, the album’s lead single and opening track. Classic Presets, I think this is what everyone was expecting – a heavy, dark club anthem with a political slant, lyrics about the world being on fire because of “youth in trouble” (not to think the world revolves around the UK, but I wonder how inspired that lyric was by the London Riots?!) along with the above judgement on the current musical taste of the current youth. It was the perfect lead single, but didn’t quite prepare people for what was to come with the album.
Second single, and second track, ‘Ghosts’, is possibly the most innovative thing the duo have done in years. Essentially an ambient dance folk song, with undertones of Adam Ant, ‘Ghosts’ is a tender, luscious song about being a parent, in which Julian, over ambient beats and trance synths, talks about his past and his mistakes. The track builds into a sonic delight, with military drums and vocals effects, and the whole thing (including the gorgeous accompanying video) really shows The Presets at their musical best. The perfect summer night chill out song, how this is not already huge, and why its received so much backlash from fans I have no idea. Hopefully that will change by the time it’s officially released over here.
There’s always one song on an album that halts my progress on my first listen – and, as much as I love ‘Ghosts’, with this album it was the fourth track ‘Push’ that I couldn’t get past. Even after listening to it several hundred times I’m still finding it hard to describe, other than it’s fucking brilliant. The distorted lyrics in the chorus of “trapped in a party non stop partypartypartyparty” best describe how this song feels – it traps you into an amazingly enjoyable and almost sexy monotony (probably the only time I’ve ever used that word as a compliment) being made up of a series of the same loops, but which leave you unable to keep still. There’s also something dark and pulsing about it. It’s odd, but I love odd, so for me it’s the album’s highlight.
The light and shade is very well distributed, and it has an almost perfect mixture of dark and light. There is more dark than light (which suits me fine) coming from tracks like the aforementioned ‘Push’; the brilliantly haunting ’90s Depeche Mode brood of ‘It’s Cool’; the dark trance and house piano of ‘A.O.’ (named after the abbreviation of Adults Only used to denote Australian TV shows not suitable for children) that builds into noisy dark electro; and the pulsing ‘Fast Seconds’, that escalates into noisy dark electro reminiscent of Boys Noize and Finnish producer Huoratron. The light comes from the heady electro pop of ‘Promises’, the relentless commercial dance beat of ‘Fall’, and the beautiful almost-ballad closer ‘Fail Epic’. If Presets “fans” were upset by ‘Ghosts’, who knows what they’ll make of the album’s closing track. Its sentiment of,
When you can’t win, fail epic –
is a different sort of positivity – as they say, “You can’t win everything every time”. In a society where we’re taught not to quit, and that you’ve gone too far to turn back, I admire the balls of someone who turns round and says the opposite, all done in a stunningly minimal backing with soaring backing vocals that lift you up to a euphoric conclusion.
I’ll admit, I’m a fan of The Presets, and thought they couldn’t better Apocalypso – and on first listen I thought I was right. This is a dense album, and on the surface you might not GET it, but listen again, and you’ll hear the layers, you’ll hear the brilliance, and you’ll hear the message. It’s an incredibly surprising album, and it shows a band going from strength to strength, growing with each record they release. Who knows where the next record will take them, but I am more curious now than ever. But, until then, I’m going to carry on dancing to ‘Push’.