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When a band makes a showy change to their established sound – the sudden injection of a horn section, or the decision to ‘go electric’ – it can often come across as little more than an admission to having run out of ideas. It’s interesting to note, then, that PVT (or Pivot as they were once known) decided to lose their vowels and gain a vocalist while they were still very much on an upward creative surge as an instrumental outfit, in no apparent need of a reshuffle or a spice up.
The introduction of vocals and a heavier focus on electronics on 2010’s Church With No Magic has been taken even further with Homosapien but, sadly, the further PVT push in this direction, the further they stray from everything which made career highlight O Soundtrack My Heart so vital and promising.
The approach to the use of vocals on Church With No Magic was benefited by its measured application: the singing abstracted and melding into the textures as just one more component in the mix, rather than front and centre. It’s a shame that PVT further amplify the vocal lines throughout Homosapien, but without the necessary leap forward in lyricism and melody to justify the approach. Almost all of the tracks on offer here move through undercooked verse refrains to a chorus based around a repeated phrase, with the instrumental backdrop drained of the band’s former humanism – swirling arpeggios and drum loops lacking the vibrancy of their former set-up, playing catch up to their contemporaries.
PVT still frequently show flashes of promise and brilliance, but soon undercut themselves through the poor balance between vocal and musicianship. The brooding bass lick of ‘Electric’ threatens to cultivate an effective sense of menace mixed with sensuality, but gets unseated by the band's ill-chosen commitment to a vocal performance which amounts to little.
The best cuts are those which turn the vocal back into a oblique component in the mix, as well as those which most proudly display their human fingerprints – making title track Homosapien one of the highlights. Taking a vocal cut chopped into razor thin shards, fucking around somewhere over in the left speaker. Distracted and disorientated, the listener fails to notice the chugging guitars (yes, guitars!) ploughing their way into the mix, ramping up the intensity and recalling the invigorating live act which PVT used to be.