Writing about music, Frank Zappa once said, is like dancing about architecture. This is certainly the case for Pendulum. They are predominantly a drum 'n' bass group, however in their debut album, they span many other genres such as jazz rock, funk, ambient and hip hop, while still maintaining a drum 'n' bass beat. Not unlike The Avalanches, they also use samples from the most unlikely places.
The album starts with Prelude, a short introduction based on a sample from a sci - fi TV show. It has a few brass instruments and a choir in the background, but isn't really much. It segues beautifully into Slam which starts off with a heavy hip hop beat and brass fanfare. It then speeds up, changing mood completely. A grinding synth riff and fast drums start off this section. The synth then stops, leaving the drum beat and bass. The synth then comes back with a different beat and changes some more over the song. At about three minutes in, a sample from Prelude comes in with some spacey noises for a few seconds. It then goes back to the hypnotic main synth riff and goes on to the second riff, then gets crazier and crazier. Along with Prelude, it is a brilliant opener to the album and sets the tone for the rest.
The next track, Plasticworld, is more ambient. It still has a fast beat, but the rest of the song is much calmer. There is some lovely singing and synths on this song. Fasten Your Seatbelt is a bouncy almost ska style track which starts off with spacey keyboards, rapping and singing. There is some grat dub bass on this and short bursts of rapping and singing come back. There is a great middle section that uses a sample of a film or TV show. It then goes back to the bouncy ska. This is a nice lively track with good use of vocals.
Through The Loop is much darker and very sinister. The first thing we hear is a sample of some singing from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (the old one with Gene Wilder). The singing turns into very melodramatic screaming over an extremely fast drumbeat. The sample stops and a synth loop starts up. The sample is repeated later on in the track over some more spacey sounds. The next track, Sounds of Life, is another ambient one with airy vocals and lovely synth effects that add to the ambient feel of the track.
The most diverse and experimental track on the album is Girl In The Fire, a track that is based on a jazzy, almost Latin American acoustic guitar riff. Drums and synths build up and altogether, the first part of the track has a kind of warped lounge feel to it. This goes on for a few minutes, then it speeds up and becomes more complex, adding short snaps of vocals and more bass. Later an electric guitar solo comes in above the rhythm guitar. This track really shows you how many influences Pendulum have.
Tarantula is the only song of Pendulum's that I've heard on the radio. It has some excellent rapping over a synth similar to that on Slam and a quick drum loop. The song has a dancehall feel to it and is very different to the rest of the album. Out Here is what Funkadelic would sound like if they'd collaborated with U2, the Chemical Brothers and The Rapture. A mid tempo, funky track starting off with a plaintive guitar riff but slowly morphing into a full on electro banger. The title track is a very perculiar one, with more vocals than any of the others. The vocals sound like they could have come from a Dashboard Confessional song, but mixed with the trancey drum 'n' bass it turns into something very strange, mixing emo - ish vocals with electronica. The rest of the tracks are very good drum 'n' bass, heavy on the samples and noises. The Terminal sounds like something Prodigy could have cooked up mixed with something that sounds like the Batman theme, Streamline is another sweet ambient tune, Another Planet is, dare I say it, otherworldly and final track Still Grey sums up the whole album - hard and fast in some places, yet ambient and downtempo in others.
Hold Your Colour isn't an album for everyone, but it is an album for people to enjoy. It may be unlistenable on the first go, but if you give it a second chance, all will come clear.