Music

PVT: Church With No Magic

PVT, representing legendary electronic label Warp Records, make an album of mind-bending and energizing music that defies genre.


PVT

Church With No Magic

Label: Warp
US Release Date: 2010-08-10
UK Release Date: 2010-08-10
Amazon
iTunes

One of the more interesting aspects of the “digital music revolution” (maybe you’ve heard of it) has been the consistent brand loyalty to independent record labels expressed by most listeners, all while their major label brethren have been increasingly consigned to meaninglessness. Merge and Sub Pop, for example, remain hallowed indie powerhouses. Even smaller companies like DFA and Jagjaguwar bring attention to new albums solely through the virtue of label reputation. Along those lines, any release by venerable electronica standby Warp Records will generate plenty of excitement among longtime fans and casual followers alike.

The latest record fortunate enough to hold the Warp insignia on its sleeve comes from Australian genre-defiers PVT. The experimental electronic-rock act has been around for about a decade, originally making waves as Pivot. Their new album, Church With No Magic, shows PVT changing their sound in enough ways to warrant the slight touch-up of their name. Previously focused on moody instrumentals, the band is injecting energy into their work through stronger electronic-based compositions and Richard Pike’s shapeshifting vocals.

“Community", the brief opening track, offers a sense of continuity from PVT’s previous work: a meaty synthesizer fades in and out above ghostly vocals, creating an atmosphere both dark and contemplative. However, PVT’s new direction makes itself quickly known after that song wraps up. “Light Up Bright Fires” shakes the haze off with aggressive breakbeats from live drums, joined by a bass synth line that snakes so low to the ground you’d almost have to dig to grab hold of it. Richard Pike asserts himself powerfully, his voice gliding from affected tenor to clipped falsetto, following the beat and pulse of the song masterfully. His performance here is a perfect example of how he brings new drama to PVT’s songs, enlivening them with a force never overly showy or domineering.

The album’s title track follows the pattern of “Light Up Bright Fires", with a syncopated rhythm and synthesizers simultaneously maxing out the low end and sprinkling the song with chiming keys that lift it to lofty heights. Again, Pike proves to be the song’s masterstroke, this time bringing an Elvis-tinged swagger to a more throaty delivery. “I sold myself out / In a heartbeat”, he sings, his voice menacing and seductive in the same notes. It's a formula and register that bring to mind Dan Boeckner, another singer able to bring a pitch-perfect confidence to his blending of rock and electronic elements in Handsome Furs. Indeed, Pike changes his approach each time a listener thinks he or she has pinned him down. He bellows into Ian Curtis territory on the fantastically woozy “Crimson Swan", which also shares Joy Division’s affinity for combining melody and dissonance in ways successful enough to seem natural.

“Window” starts to make sense as a first single, its intricate sampling rolling at a driving pace that underscores the urgency of Pike’s stadium-ready delivery. He sings, “I won’t slip, / I won’t fall, / I won’t change, / No, I won’t slip…” in the beginnings of a perfect pop circle, a looping chorus that would’ve been taken from the best of radio-ready playbooks. Just when he’s gotten everyone to their feet, ready to jump in unison, he and the band suddenly slow the tempo to zero before finishing the song at a stuttering clip, purposefully never regaining the momentum of the song’s early promise. It’s a massively frustrating moment, but it works on a purely intellectual level. By this time, we believe enough in the band to go along with the joke.

Fortunately enough, “The Quick Mile’s” skittering hi-hat and soaring “oh-ah” harmonies are more than enough to make up for the popping of “Window’s” balloon. Church With No Magic’s final tracks are heavy on mood, and all successful in their own right. Closer “Only the Wind Can Hear You” has Pike singing his throat out, surrounding by bursts of noise and a buoyant synth melody. It’s a song that gets more stunning with each listen as it unfolds and unfolds. PVT more than carries the Warp Records torch, matching the label for restless reinvention and invigorating energy. Consider Church With No Magic, like Warp itself, a mix of high art and pop songcraft, music that will make you nod your head both to the beat and to a sense of real intrigue and admiration.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image