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The Presets

Apocalypso

(Modular; US: 13 May 2008; UK: 13 May 2008; Australia release date: 8 Apr 2008)

Dear Presets,


I know things have been rough between us lately, and I wanted to write to you to work through some of the things that have been on my mind. We used to be such good mates. Your music made me want to dance around and, a few times when you came to New York and played small rooms that dripped with the sweat of a hundred hipsters, that was thrilling.


True, your first album was so wide-ranging that many people thought you’d bitten off more than you could chew. But I loved that, the twinkling pop of “Girl and the Sea” and the heavy, sexy electro throb of “Are You the One?” and “Down Down Down”. Even your little electro-squelch fugue “Beams” seemed like a cheeky, knowing wink just for me. You were brash and sexy, and weren’t afraid to show it. You were ambiguously effeminate, but muscular at the same time. Even for a guy with a girlfriend, that was thrilling, too.


But what happened? Did you become homophobic? Did you decide that the Midnight Juggernauts were the lights you should follow, rather than the much higher quality and less self-conscious Cut Copy? Did all the posing in Ksubi jeans put too much pressure on your brains?  I’m confused. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but your juicy dirtiness used to be a big drawcard; now, you seem to be throwing out sexual generalities and platitudes that are more instructive than actually sexy.


I appreciate what you were trying to do with Apocalypso. Second albums are always difficult—there’s time pressure, and you were trying to be more focused than on Beams. You were showing us how much you loved techno, the old ‘90s techno before house became big and before trance became big. So why does the mixing feel archaic and flat, like an old ‘80s interpretation of what the future might be like? The beat on “A New Sky” might be influenced by rock’s simple 4/4, but it’s pretty boring. Sorry if that sounds mean; I’m just trying to be honest. Did Neon Neon’s cheeky album Stainless Style not show that you could be referential and still maintain a modern production aesthetic?


Did Justice take all the wind out of your sails? “My People” shows us you can still be your old, banging selves. It’s so fun! All my friends lose their shit when this comes on, at every club night at every club in Sydney. And your opening, “Kicking and Screaming”, is bruisingly overbearing, just the way we always liked you. But you copy Justice’s big organs on “Talk Like That” and it sounds derivative. On “Together”, the fake orgasm puts you in the same company as MSTRKRFT, a second-tier hipster blog-house act that can only titillate by making suggestive metaphor into a blunt-edged tool. Are you referencing Muscles when you ask, “Who do we think we are, running around all sweaty?” At least his trance-throwback’s good-natured; in comparison, “Anywhere” could only be compelling if you don’t actually remember the late ‘90s.


Despite all your show at futurism, at being the soundtrack to that end-of-the-world party scene in the second Matrix, it seems to me that you’ve become trapped in conventional and tame dance music conventions. In these last few years, I’ve grown in my dance music taste -– you seem to have moved backwards. I know it’s rude to do this in this forum, but I gotta quit you. I’m pretty sure it’s not me, it’s you.

Rating:

Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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