The Australian electro-rock band Pendulum has behaved a little like its name for the better part of 10 years. From Rob Swire’s professed love for hardcore and breakbeat down to the band’s public spat with Goldie over an alleged refusal to acknowledge their drum and bass roots (which turned out to be only half-true), they really have swung wide for such a musically narrow niche. Their latest album, which didn’t see a U.S. release until this year, is a microcosm of Pendulum’s organic home base and eventual electronic conversion. Immersion has it all, and it plays big—swinging for the fences big. Plenty of exciting vamps live within this CD, and it’s safe to say that most of them hold up to the repetition.
Yes, for every revved-up moment that prolongs dance floor euphoria, there are just as many ideas in danger of overstaying their welcome. But that’s okay, because the brisk drive of Pendulum’s rhythmic sampling is really a big thing unto itself. Synth lines fly, freeing up space for ornamental oddballs like the sounds of Nintendo music mistakenly being crossbred with something 20 years ahead of its time. “Feed the fire/Break your vision/Throw your fists up/Come on with me”, Swire sings on the single “Watercolour”, and fans of breakneck house probably can’t resist the invitation. This confidence turns into something more menacing seven tracks later: “Throw it away/‘Cause I got the patience/To see you drown/To watch you go down”. And this really is no less riveting. No wonder they are better known for their lives shows.
Variety is on Immersion‘s side. Even though drum and bass takes center stage, there are enough stylistic diversions to almost justify the album’s 67-minute length. A noticeable change-up is with In Flame’s cameo, “Self Vs. Self”. It’s not exactly an uncomfortable jump in genre, but there is something about nu-metal with shouted lyrics that unfortunately levels the playing field when trying to ignore a stylistic inferiority. A better suited diversion from bass and drums is the industrial “Comprachicos”, where is sounds like Anderson Consulting flew in Trent Reznor to mediate a track. “Crush”, plain and simple, brings the rawk. Very little else on Immersion gets quite to the point so quickly, so bombastically, and as concisely as “Crush”. And few moments are as unsettling as the second movement of “The Island”, subtitled “Dusk”. There is a slow tremolo effect jiggered to a pitch bend which becomes the song’s anchor, and when you are tired and alone at night, listening in the dark, it can be quite weird.
This we-like-multiple-genres approach benefits the album simply because it’s so long. Front to back, Immersion is pretty sturdy. But it also belies its title by not really plunging any real depths. The songs are all pretty much a serviceable surface sparkle, being neither dull nor life-affirming. But hey, when it comes to the dizzying heights of a loop set to thrill, no one complains about the shallow waters.