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It’s always exciting to witness a group that resides on the fringes of the sonic landscape growing stronger and stronger as a band, and no longer solely as a semi-experiment. For all their electro-rock experimentalism, Sydney via London trio PVT feel reasonably comfortable with Homosapien – their fourth release, and second under their now-acronymic band name. This is no small feat: the band work at the junction of many genres and tones, yet manage to produce a distinguished brand of synth-driven art-rock. Richard Pike has now been instilled as the group’s frontman, and his lead is helping to establish Homosapien as the group’s most accessible and rewarding release to date.
The gentle synth bleeps and Kid A-esque vocal distortions of album opener Shiver immediately suggest a sonically clearer experience in comparison to 2010’s Church With No Magic. However, the instrumentation doesn’t remain so consistently gentle and clean-cut: synthesizers continuously move between clean and dirty, and the percussion work shifts from being raw and precise to being heavily affected. It’s quite impressive just how many modern musical textures PVT are capable of.
Dotted throughout Homosapien are pop-infused love songs disguised as moody new-wave laments. Perhaps the group’s solid understanding of their own sound is the reason why they are capable of this, as well as the fact that they continue to self-produce their material. Cold Romance, New Morning and Love & Defeat – which instantly recalls the Depeche Mode song Sweetest Perfection – are all driven by the band’s habit of layering, as well as by the quite impressive vocal range of Richard Pike.
However, there are phrases where Homosapien seems to wane, feel empty, and lack a sense of urgency or movement, but these phrases are relatively short. Where the group thrive are on tracks with instant hits of energy, namely album highlights Nightfall and Casual Success. The former couples some dirty synths with a pulsing industrial rhythm, and the latter a fuzz-drenched bass guitar riff with some echoing vocals.
Casual Success is perhaps the song set to define Homosapien, as Pike sings ‘I’m on the verge of a summit of a casual success / I don’t care about the sheer drop.’ It suggests that PVT are content with their position in the music world – a position that continues to allow for creative freedom. Despite not being as experimental as its predecessor, Homosapien pushes boundaries at the interface between man and machine, and between guitar music and EDM. PVT are slowly embracing their new-wave sensibilities, as well as the pop tones that underpin many of their more accessible tracks, and what results is a holistically more intimate experience.