Review Summary: The perfection of past ideas.
Consisting of singer and guitarist Michael Harris, and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Anderson, Idiot Pilot create some of the most ambitious and diverse music around. Their debut album ‘Strange We Should Meet Here’ was a sprawling, genre-spanning experiment which seemed terrified of the idea of stagnation. Concepts were combined and genres were spliced, in a successful scatter-gun approach that only occasionally seemed misguided in its avidity. Although its ambition didn't detract from its brilliance, a more methodical, polished approach was adopted in the creation of their second album, ‘Wolves’. More formulaic and with fewer harsh vocals and electronic samples, ‘Wolves’ sought to prove their credentials as consistently solid songwriters, in a highly focused if slightly underwhelming sophomore album. Their final output before going on hiatus, ‘Heart is Long’ sees the perfection of the ethereal sound Idiot Pilot had attempted but hadn't mastered in their previous releases.
‘Heart is Long’ opens in familiar territory; with an acoustic version of ‘Wolves’ opener ‘Last Chance’. Where the original opened with a frantic skipping beat and distant, slurred vocals that exploded amid a crescendo of drums and guitars at the song’s chorus, the acoustic rendition takes an altogether more relaxed approach. Instead of disguising his voice amongst a flurry of abrasive electronics, Michael Harris allows his celestial vocals to guide the song throughout. Moving at a saunter for the majority, the last chorus is afforded an injection of power and emotion that showcases Harris’ talents as a top vocalist.
Rather than regressing to the heavy, brash sound that they employed frequently in the past, Idiot Pilot seem content to stick to the theme and run with it for the duration of the EP. The following tracks ‘Mercury’ and ‘Wolves’ take on a more up-tempo approach than the album opener, but both stick closely to the blueprint. The former sees the band’s Radiohead influence come to the fore, with a Thom Yorke inspired vocal delivery in the verses, in what feels like a toned down salute to ‘Climbing Up The Walls’. The latter is a denser, heavier experience, until an angelic chorus menacingly convinces; “It’s true that wolves, never really attack people”, before fading effectively into the album’s final and strongest track.
Previous attempts at producing a wholly ambient track had only partially succeeded, with a key ingredient missing. Be it in the form of the flat ‘Lucid’, or the mind-numbing ‘A Light at the End of the Tunnel’, they never changed gear nor had the solid foundation to maintain them for a song’s duration. ‘The Reigns’ however, avoids these pitfalls. A typically prolonged vocal delivery skips playfully over an intermittent beat, whilst introspective lyrics add depth; “When death is washed away, we will terminate this final mystery/But I still need to reach the life inside of me”. ‘The Reigns’ succeeds because of the gorgeous atmosphere that carries the listener, in an effort that sees the culmination of past ideas come together satisfyingly.
With no new material planned and no word from the band since the announcement of their hiatus two years ago, Idiot Pilot’s probable final work is, in the very least, every bit as accomplished as they hoped it would be.