Delorean take their name from either an anachronistic or time-traveling car. Maybe both. Which is ostensibly weird only because the band insists on crafting music that transcends time, dragging synthesizer slams from a John Hughes movie onto a futuristic beach in Catalonia.
Two albums ago, on the EP, Ayrton Senna, that garnered them relative fame in the United States, Delorean chose a title that paid homage, or maybe paid nothing, to the deceased Formula 1 driver of the same name. With a gauzy command of the past and a clear sense of how to spin this sort of nostalgia on the dance floor, Delorean built a monolith of unmemory on their third LP, Subiza. It was as great as it was completely inoffensive, songs like “Stay Close” finding their denouement in edicts like “Get up, get up.” Where or why? It wasn’t important; it was an imaginary self anyhow. Seemingly always free of place and time, on a fourth full-length, Apar, the band traffics in well-worn territory, yelping loops and big down beats set against dreamy pop. The beats are big, even if the ambition seems low, as Delorean cements themselves as an immensely credible band with an increasingly obvious ceiling.
The band does race over some new geography at moments on Apar. The transition of the sitar-fueled third track, “Dominion”, with its vaguely Eastern chord resolutions, and the pan-flute, Zamfir-indebted fourth track, “Unhold”, provide some of the most unsettling stylistic maneuvers on the record. “Unhold” in particular produces an aesthetic quality that is neither pleasing nor especially recognizable, more dystopian than anything else. Where “Dominion” nominally succeeds in carrying the four-piece into some new stylized choices, “Unhold” is a reminder that experimentation in this vein runs the risk of alienating the familiar sound for which the band is marginally famous. They return to familiar territory, the breathy vocal-effect keyboards and laser synthesizer loops of “You Know It’s Right”, perhaps a titular reference to the comfort of stylistic continuity from the band’s previous records. This may be a tautology or a compliment; everything else on Apar sounds exactly like Delorean.
The brightest moments of a band known for making sun-blasted pop arrive in the form of album closer, “Still You”, and the opening pairing, “Spirit” and “Destitute Time”. On “Spirit”, the band claims to “make you feel more alive” on syncopated keyboard arrangement that at any moment seem like they could turn into the Baywatch theme song. The final movement sets vocal loops off into the sky like tracer fire, the structure both seeming to unravel and build in the same moment. “Destitute Time”, the album’s single, the most “Delorean” of all the songs on Apar, features tropical percussion and a female vocal hook that implements four notes and no words, one of the most pleasing moments on the record. Album closer “Still You”, a suggestion that they and their listeners are unchanged, opens to an ebullient clap-track before unleashing both the sunniest guitars on the record and its best song. “Still You” tips over five minutes without a wasted moment, proof that the band can hold attention without needless innovation.
The problems on Apar also emerge as the solutions: Delorean being Delorean, whatever that means. A moderately successful band at mid-career, or maybe near the end, necessarily must confront the limits of their history, even if their hallmark has always been a seeming existence outside of linear time. A long look in the mirror, the band’s fourth record proves an examination of reflection, best where predictable and worst where you see something surprising that doesn’t belong. We are reduced to our body of work, nothing left but what we’ve done and what we do. There is, finally, no escape from ourselves.
// Notes from the Road
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