In the Middle East, a great collision of ancient tradition and modern technology is taking place; as economies grow, the impressionable young yearn for the finer things in life, as the Earth’s most ancient civilisations again become major world players. Of course there is Dubai, but draped across the segment of the Mediterranean Sea which laps against Israel is Tel Aviv – a Biblical city that archaeology claims stretches back to the Neolithic era. Plagued by turmoil and warfare, it's now the technological and economic hub of Israel; the New York of the Middle East; a city that never sleeps. From this rapidly developing city comes the impulse of popular music. Music that makes use of technological advancements and popular trends and mirrors its city’s shiny, chromed new face. Acollective are a band whose sound takes from the traditional and modern in equal measure within the fabric of their new album Pangaea.
Acollective have constructed a layered progressive-pop album that juxtaposes old and new, just like the city it was conceived in. It's a record that encompasses everything from folk to electronica and to rock; it's not dissimilar to Alt-J, without quite so much of the mystery and intrigue.
With electronics playing a major role in the record’s sound, album opener ‘OTM’ whets the appetite with crackling production, looped vocal samples, ratatatting percussion and layers of synth, punctuated by digital blips and stabs of brass; a cacophony of pop styled progressiveness. Towards the tail end of the album, ‘Had It Once’ again draws from electronic wells, with bass to shake your insides, pop sensibilities and trickles of banjo which offer a sepia toned shade of folk.
Tradition also runs plainly throughout the album’s midsection, and underneath western folk plays an intrinsic part. Along with the hues of folk in ‘Had It Once’, ‘At Least’ and ‘Custom’ also don the proverbial corduroy jacket to great effect – banjo and guitar fingerings, subtle cooing vocals and a stripped back sound take over, punctuated again by flecks of electronics.
Another shade to this multi-faceted record is the band's overriding ability to write great pop. Of this category ‘Breakapart’, which utilises the outfit’s multi-layered approach, piling on guitars, electronics and horns, fits the bill. ‘Happiest Of All Memorial Days’, which has just received a peculiar new animated video illustrating a post-apocalyptic landscape full of punk penguins and zombies with a questionable fashion sense also falls into this shade of the album’s sound – it and ‘Pancakes’ offer thoughtful ballads, haunting and full of melancholy. ‘Fine’, ‘Beating Heart Cadavers’ and ‘I Can’t’ take elements of blues, electronics, prog rock and psych – they tread the line masterfully between digital and analogue, encapsulating the overarching theme of the record: juxtaposition of the old and new.
Pangea packs into its 40-odd minutes of play time a vast array of nuances, styles, instruments and sounds. Much like the city it has been produced in, there is a sense of development, an ability to explore the far reaches of creativity and just like Tel Aviv it borders the line between tradition and the modern day. The record can, at times, seem a little confused and performs some of its facets noticeably better than others. It excels at its electronic side – music no longer has borders and ‘OTM’ sounds as though it could have been constructed in a London basement rather than on the edge of one of the oldest landscapes on Earth. It also excels on its folk ramblings - ‘Had It Once’, ‘At Least’ and ‘Custom’ trickle along with great aptitude, however, where it falls short is the way it tries to squeeze a few too many dissimilar sounds into the one release. The band are an exciting prospect, but perhaps need to settle, reshuffle and refocus their material into something more direct.
6Sam Willis's Score