Review Summary: Immersion - Pendulum's attempts at bridging the gap
I can't really fault Rob Swire and co for wanting to conquer the world, I'm just not too sure that they're going about it in the right way. There's only so much experimentation you can get away with in the drum & bass genre before the purists come out and pay a visit, and these guys like to play with burning pitchforks. Playing around with an already established genre will only get you so far ahead, and its always going to be sooner rather than later before you find yourself slipping. That came early with Pendulum, who found themselves finding the rug being pulled out from under their feet with their second LP, In Silico
. Well in reality, it actually depends on who you talk to in regards to that album as total sales are now numbering somewhere up in the stratosphere, but ultimately that album left somewhat of a stale taste in the mouths of bassheads around the globe. Its lukewarm pairing of d&b with rock sensibilities wasn't entirely a bad idea, but the execution of it was however, and the album ended up as nothing more than a folly compared to their fun but dumb debut, Hold Your Colour
, which shaped and defined a hell of a lot of summers when it dropped way back in the clear, crisp skies of 2005.
I'd like to tell you that In Silico
was just a misguided attempt at appealing to the lowest common denominator, when in reality all interviews taken from that time period suggested that it was, in fact, a very real
attempt. Well kudos to them for keeping a brave face while dodging the arrows, because for better or worse they released an album that, for lack of a better word, forced
them into the spotlight, and saw their faces being pasted across the screens of every tv that was tuned to any number of insipid VJ fronted party hour music channels. But why then, would it seem that they are trying to make amends for their woeful behavior now? Was it one of those copy and paste remarks spouted from any band seeking to return to their “roots”? “We felt the time was right” - well I guess that could be the case, but it seemed that someone forgot to ask if maybe Pendulum were in the wrong time zone, because quite simply this is what In Silico
should have been. Everything about Immersion
smacks of “sequel”, from its funky low end buildups to its high energy outbursts of pure pop nonsense gold, this is everything that their sophomore effort failed to do. This isn't the bees knees, in fact its far from it, but at least now they appear to be trying. Bless their little cotton socks.
Following in the footsteps of Hold Your Colour
begins with a touch of the cinematic, as intro 'Genesis' blasts out in full epic fashion. It comes across as a tad out of place given what its setting up, but it does do a somewhat admirable job of setting the scene. But its 'Salt In The Wounds' where the action truly begins; a full blooded track that goes for an early win and somewhat succeeds. It follows a similar blueprint to earlier smash 'Slam', with a simple but infectious groove laden line that within a few short frames removes all the doubt and appeases any hostility that had been lain at the gates of In Silico
. Its loud, boisterous, gloriously cheesy, but best of all, catchy as all hell. Its not the sound of Pendulum moving in a new direction, but rather the sound of a more comfortable dynamic. They keep the flow moving into the next few tracks remarkably well, aside from the small hiccup that is 'Watercolour'. I wouldn't be so bold as to call it an out and out bad track, but its earnest and trite call to the floor wails don't go over well with this tired old cynic. It is just a brief reprieve however, a small diversion in the quest for continued dominance.
'Set Me On Fire' represents the first of many outside influences to work their way into the fold; Rob Swire and his boys take the grassroots dubstep movement and proceed to send it up to the heavens, attaching a hefty amount of bells and whistles to it in the process. Its a number that initially grabbed me by surprise (this was soon to become a regular occurrence), not because it seemed out of place, but because the group actually seem at ease when trying to pull the style off. Its not the breakthrough of the century or anything, but Pendulum seem to effortlessly slip into the moment and back out again without missing a beat. 'The Island' represents another big departure for the gang, and its this particular shift in styles that I'm most happy with. A glorious and perky number that takes more than a few cues from the deep house school of thought, 'The Island' is spliced into two parts, separating the more anthemic nature of house with a breaks induced “deconstruction” segment that I can only imagine will go over like magic on the club kids. And I'll be damned if I wont be in there with them, trying to find my little slice of weekend euphoria.
'The Vulture' sees the gang drawing a lot of parallels with breakbeat, and interestingly, even more so than on Prodigy main man Liam Howlett's much touted guest appearance on 'Immunize'. Its frantic and choppy beats interspersed by MC Verse's cat calls also call to mind The Prodigy's more punk fringe moments. Sadly though, it's in the final act where Pendulum start to show their true colors; 'Self Vs Self' is really nothing more than an In Flames track with a few Swire vocals tacked onto it. Which is fine had this been an In Flames album, but this isn't, and I really have to question not only the existence of this track, but also how well its going to go down with Pendulum's faithfully devoted crowd. And then there's 'Encoder', the very antithesis of previous closer 'The Tempest'; with its 80's pop leanings and delicate ideas it ends the album on a lackluster note. Its a track that tries to scratch out a purpose, or at the very least, its a song that tries to understand why it even exists, and yet it never really seems close to finding its own revelation, and as such, renders the listener unable to do the same.
So there you have it, Pendulum's latest attempts for world supremacy. Its an ambitious goal of theirs, to be sure, but Pendulum have always been a group to aim just beyond their reach. At times they manage to pull it off, effortlessly as well, and at other times they manage to fall about a mile short. Their digressions into the current fads of the night surprisingly bring the more memorable moments of the album, its actually when they attempt to do their own thing entirely that the focus and steam of Immersion
tend to run out. And while they've managed to almost eliminate the In Silico
sound from their repertoire, they're still a long ways away from touching the landmark of Hold Your Colour
. But you can't fault them for trying, and while this is just as much of a mixed bag as their last outing, Immersion
has all the elements in place to secure Pendulum's tenure on the dancefloors for a few years to come.