Named in honor of the small Basque town where it was recorded, Subiza could also be a neologism that describes Delorean’s hybrid aesthetic: While Subiza clearly conveys the spring break forever spirit of Ibiza techno through its house synth refrains and resonant, decadent rhythms, the album also speaks to the Spanish band’s under-the-radar indie-rock background through a structural sensibility that puts the song first. The result is an effort that at once boasts a consistent, identifiable sound, but has distinct, individual tracks that don’t end up blurring together or seeming too samey, as both dance music and electronic-inflected rock can seem to uninitiated ears.
Subiza really lies at an intersection of where rockists and dance enthusiasts can meet, even though they might lack the disposition and interest to fully engage each other. If you’re an indie loyalist who wants to know what Balearic beat is, but thinks keyboard-driven electronica all kinda sounds indistinguishable, Subiza is probably the best place to start and end, offering a rock-friendly approach to free-floating techno sound palettes by shaping them into actual songs. Dance kids, on the other hand, might give indie rock a chance, provided that other bands could come up with the same bold melodies and rhythms as Delorean does. The genre blurring on Subiza comes off so effortlessly and naturally, because Delorean is so proficient at blending styles, then hiding the seams.
On first listen, the dance elements do rise to the surface: And how could they not, what with the high-energy state-of-the-art keyboards in perpetual motion interrupted only by sampled dance-club howls? A track like “Real Love” actually sounds like it radiates, the effect amplified to the n-th degree by the interplay between syncopated synths, fuzzed-out vocals, and the reverb bouncing off the drum-machine rhythms. “Endless Sunset” plays with layers of stainless-steel techno effects and subliminally persistent beats, as Delorean piles them up and pulls them apart with a deft touch.
Still, no matter how dancey Delorean gets, its tunes all have a sense of a beginning-middle-end progression to them: Delorean’s structural instincts aren’t just used to compose rich soundscapes, but they also guide a steady hand at self-editing. It shows a band sober enough to know when to cut off the pretty patterns and to mold the ethereal moods into discrete tracks. The stunning opener “Stay Close” is a good case in point: What starts out like a perfunctory remix with its high-stepping synths and snapping beats somehow reins itself in, finding its inner pop song by channeling and streamlining the head of steam it built up.
Lurking behind the clubby hedonism and techno textures of Subiza is a rock band — after all, Delorean started out as an obscure dance-punk act before it got noticed as dance music translators. As is often mentioned, the group shares affinities with the late-1980s / early-1990s Madchester scene, which cross-bred the rock stage and the dance floor in revolutionary ways. Intro’d to what sounds like a sample of a basement gospel choir, “Simple Graces”, in particular, recalls the R&B underpinnings of house music and how they were reinterpreted by the likes of the Stone Roses and Primal Scream. Building up waves of hazy harmonies to evoke a chilled-out sound, it’s the reverse negative of rave-rock, skewing the balance in favor sequencers and mixers over guitar-bass-drums. Same goes for the closing number, “It’s All Ours”, which combines shuffling tribal beats and spaced-out atmospherics to smooth out the edges of the Happy Mondays’ groovy jag.
Still, it’s really with contemporary pop experimenters that Delorean falls in with, even as it finds a way to stand out on its own: The band’s closest analogues would seem to be Caribou and Animal Collective, though Delorean takes its cues from dance genres while the former uses shoegaze as a starting point and the latter art music. In particular, Delorean recalls something like a remixed version of Animal Collective on “Warmer Places”, taking that band’s Philip Glass-isms to the discotheque and putting them under a strobe light. With its sparkling yet sinewy synths, its brittle yet propulsive rhythms, “Warmer Places” is a thrilling mix of opposing forces and contradictory elements. Dense and loose and sculpted all at once, the track finds Delorean at its most adventurous as well as with its strongest sense of control.
In the end, you probably won’t be debating whether Subiza is dance music for indies or rock for club kids. Whatever category Delorean ultimately falls under, you can put a check next to Subiza as a contender for the feel-good album of the summer.