Controlling Crowds



by MassiveAttack USER (91 Reviews)
July 25th, 2009 | 16 replies

Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Finally, Archive manage to find their roots while melding their previous genre endeavors in one album. Their best album in 10 years.

Evolving much like the trip-hop scene did in the 1990’s, Archive’s subsequent albums after their sensational debut Londinium both strayed and departed from the more classic sense of the genre word. With the exception of their sophomore effort Take My Head their style has been leaning towards a more alternative rock sound, much like another so-called trip-hop group UNKLE did with War Stories. Unfortunately, even with an improved form in their next 2 albums from their first alternative style effort You All Look The Same To Me it was pale in comparison to their debut and sophomore effort. Londinium had everything you wanted from a trip-hop band in the 90’s - the dark vibes, sleek atmospheres, soulful vocals from former member Roya Arab, and intricate rhymes of Rosko John. Although their sophomore effort was excellent in its own right, it still had an achingly high void in which its predecessor was great for. With each new release Archive strayed from the tag that genre of trip-hop was stamped on them and with every album I wanted more of that very thing. So its been nearly 15 years since their debut and thus 2009’s Controlling Crowds shows the general scope of the band, mixing both old and new, with great results.

I mention their transformation because it would be a crime to pigeonhole this band, just as you wouldn't pigeonhole other dynamic groups. Archive's manifestation on Controlling Crowds isn't really toppled with more of their new approach. The general rock atmosphere is quite subdued when compared to their previous albums. The electronic push throughout most of these tracks are noticed extremely quickly. Vocally the Archive's main ambitions layed within their hip-hop contributor Rosko John and female vocalist Roya Arab, but things inevitably change, as did this band's sound. Like recent albums Controlling Crowds rely on a male vocalist instead of the more traditional female vocalist, but more importantly the one thing that has really changed from Noise or even the heavily prog rock You All Look The Same To Me is the fact Archive have manage to meld both trip-hop and their best moments of progressive rock. Oddly enough this album feels more like a soundtrack then anything else. The single "Bullets" is catchy and takes the same approach vocally as seen in "Controlling Crowds". The entire album runs through easily, although there are a few songs that may run their course it doesn't really take away much from this album. For one Controlling Crowds would seem to be their most accessible work to date and secondly it feels generally the same. The impression from this album would seem trip-hop, but knowing their past history and listening more carefully Controlling Crowds is more.

Interestingly enough the different transformations from pop, progressive rock, trip-hop, and even some elements of jazz throughout their career are held in check for the most part. Many Archive fans of Londinium were supremely disappointed with their eventual lineup without Rosko John and Roya Arab, thankfully one of them is back - Rosko John. The flashbacks of Londinium are in full effect while listening to superb tracks such as "Quiet Time", "Razed To The Ground" and "Bastardised Ink". Other genre borders are crossed with the extremely jazzy "Whore", the soulful "Collapse/Collide" and even the poppy, alternative, to progressive rock is scattered throughout the album. The one thing that doesn't really change is Pollard Berrier's vocal appearances - they're relatively calm and stable. There aren't huge energy bursts which you would expect from a band that draws influence from tons of directions, which helps the album itself develop a lay'd back feel already. Rosko John and Maria Q bring the best parts of Londinium and Take My Head. What is extremely reassuring about Archive's latest work is the fact they don't go overboard with anything. Each of their previous albums are actually represented with great balance, making Controlling Crowds their best album in 10 years.

What is really charming is the non-existent trip-hop backgrounds of the last 10 years is in full effect here. The ear-tingling electronic atmosphere and beautiful melding of various instruments is in full form. Controlling Crowds has absolutely no problem transitioning from a piano driven song "Danger Visit" to a more traditional trip-hop "Quiet Time" a la Londinium, but of course there's a twist, Berrier also makes an appearance that works to perfection and I must say it just sounds grand. Controlling Crowds may not encapsulate what Archive have been doing with themselves the last decade, but it shows they still have it and are once again recognized for what they did best in the 90's.

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user ratings (93)

Comments:Add a Comment 
July 26th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

....hmmm really wasn't on point in this review, but this really is a fantastic album, I was extremely surprised.

July 26th 2009


Sounds awesome, i'll have to check it out.

July 26th 2009


good review man, it seems you have got great knowledge about this band, very detailed.

Here's some frineldy editing though:

The one thing that doesn't really change is Pollard Berrier's vocal appearances are calm and stable
I think there should be a "which" after the word "appearances"
There aren't huge energy bursts as you would expect from a band that draws influence from tons of directions, which helps the album itself develop a lay back feel already.
maybe it would read a bit better if there would be "any" after the word "aren't". And I think it shold be lay'd back feel.
The general rock atmosphere is quite subdued when compared their previous albums.
should be compared to
Also you misspelled pigeonhole once.

There review is still very well written so i'm going to pos anyway

July 26th 2009


I've only heard bullets and it was pretty nice, might check this out

July 27th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Metal, I just got Windows 7 installed so yea a few errors here and there, needed to update Office =), oops.

July 27th 2009


Mental note: I must blame the installation of a new program for all future errors. Haha.

Anyways, another top-notch review Marko.

July 27th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0


September 11th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

this rules

September 12th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

I know I reviewed it :D

January 13th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

This is getting a lot of exposure due to "Bullets" being on the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer, and for good reason.

Still need to give the album a listen all the way through but I've got high hopes for this.

July 23rd 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

Good record, if a little overlong.

February 20th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This is their best disc and personally one could skip all they have ever done and just listen to this one to get what these guys are capable of

December 25th 2015


Album Rating: 4.5

It's easy to write this off too quickly, some of tracks take multiple listens to get into.

March 10th 2021


That debut so deserves a review, it is sweet! Yet this is a 6 year bump, so I guess traffic isn't all that high for Archive in general...

May 1st 2022


Is anyone listening to the new album? It's massive and very good.

Digging: Anberlin - Silverline

May 1st 2022


Yup, best album in a long time. Listened to it four times and thought it to be really good. Then I noticed the lyrics... Bam! The music highlights the lyrics in a brilliant way. Like a punch in the gut, in a good way.

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