Review Summary: Periphery IV: Seconds Ago
Generally speaking, there are two main types of Periphery fans: (I) those who genuinely enjoy the band’s music, and (II) those who hate the band’s music enough to unfailingly listen to every new release in order to criticize it. Ostensibly The Vacancy
is for a hypothetical third kind: those who enjoy the bits between the songs as much as, or more than, the actual songs.
Four Seconds Ago—the electronica side project of Misha Mansoor and Jake Bowen—should sound familiar to anyone who has ever listened to a Periphery album. While the band has grown more judicious with their use of instrumental interludes between songs on recent albums, they used to love inserting electronica tracks between songs, particularly on PI and PII. The chief architect of these interludes was Bowen, who also released an ambient dubstep EP in 2013 and an LP in 2015 under his own name.The Vacancy
sounds like a successor to those records. Mansoor’s involvement in The Vacancy
means that it’s even kind of melodically consistent with the real
Periphery’s albums. Imagine a Periphery record without djenting guitars and Spencer Sotelo’s vocals. Yup, that’s kind of what The Vacancy
sounds like, for better or worse. And it’s definitely more better than worse. Heck, if you’re a Type II or Type III fan this might even be the best
is a pleasant little low-stakes diversion for both the artists and the listener and it sounds like an aural palate cleanser—the calm before the inevitable storm of aggressive guitar riffs that the next Periphery album will bring. Freed of the shackles of being guitarists in a metal band, Mansoor and Bowen find the space and time to allow synth melodies to gently grow and evolve as they bubble up to the surface of the wash of limpid clean guitar lines, trap beats, glitchy breaks, and occasional reverb-drenched vocals. The relative simplicity of the ideas that drive The Vacancy
enable Mansoor and Bowen to explore them in detail while building songs around them that twist and turn in on themselves and burst outwards in moments of elegantly organic catharsis.
There are moments scattered throughout the record (most noticeable on the bridge and buildup of “The Revenge” and the second half of the title track) where the dynamic shifts and synth riffs feel like rejected Periphery ideas, but this is far from a bad thing. In fact, by stripping these melodic ideas of heavily overdriven guitars (and overwrought vocals), and by instead leaning on a fairly wide palette of retro synth sounds, Four Seconds Ago actually manages to highlight some of the haunting beauty of the offbeat melodicism of these riffs. The downside is that these sorts of mesmerising dynamic moments are fairly few and far between. The Vacancy
spends most of its time erring just a little too much on the side of subtlety. They're trying to gently caress you with their hooks by burying them in hazy reverb rather than clawing at you for attention. Despite this, it’s still proof-positive of the compositional nous
of the brains trust of Periphery. The Vacancy
is never either self-indulgent or scattershot, and has enough ideas and development to stay engaging if you’re paying attention, but is restrained enough to be pleasant background noise if you aren’t.