Wave Machines – Pollen

Albums / Words

23 Jan 13

Pollen’s intrigue lies with the clashing of well-mannered pop against oozier, more tentative sound beds which enlist sentiment as their subject. Lingering jangles and off-beat bleeps render an accomplished depth, single Ill Fit and opener Counting Birds make for perfect case studies of this.

This production quality conjoins with sensational, dictatorial vocals which lay with forthrightness akin to passages from some historical text. This candor may as well conclude Pollen’s quest in fashioning a musical religion.

Blood Will Roll’s dominant drum beat lathers, boiling away with an infused-repetition. It’s a heavier sound which accidentally (or not) hints at ground thus far unearthed. Later, Pollen itself negates this earlier gusto with extra sound, brass and percussive, a paced and foreboding listen, full of ripe questioning.

A volcanic immediacy here lies responsive to something or other, channeling a gloriously unkempt, almost filthy alertness. Its vehicle: musical prowess, both painstaking; and, as a product, painstakingly natural.

The bracing blasts of cathedral-rave art rock proffered by Wave Machines on the appropriately divergent Pollen are joyous things. The baroque ‘n’ roll concept may not be a new one, but its unpretentious execution by the Liverpudlian outfit imbues it with vitality nary witnessed since those cravat-inducingly glorious days of the late ‘60s.

There are, in fact, a fair few vintage sounds to be nodded at, in a museumy sort of way – but it’s the most retro of all that hog the sonic palette. Be it the outlandish juxtaposition of clattery harpsichord and plunging hip-hop bass synths of the opener ‘Counting Birds’, or the title track’s subtle outro homage to J.S. Bach (for it could only be he), the album comes to life when the textures of the eighteenth century get re-formulated and re-paced. It’s overt, and populist, but it’s enthralling and often suspenseful as well.

It does calm down a bit now and then. And this shrewd management of intensity provides timely contrast. When we reach the slightly anomalous closer ‘Sitting in a Chair, Blinking’, we are reminded from the title upwards of Amnesiac-era Radiohead. With its directionless, empty soundscape bereft of the same pomp as the above, you’re made to consider the complexity behind the ‘building’ process common to enduring music from any era. Which is an interesting final reflection.

Wave Machines! No not those mystical water dwellers. I’m talking about the blooming band.

Wave Machines have taken their time since the debut release of ‘Wave If You’re Really There’ (2009) to sculpt and craft the album ‘Pollen’, and the hard work seems to have been worth it; with an record bursting with sparky melodies and catchy tunes.

The music while very accessible and easy to get into, also has a dark, jarring, off-beat quality which adds a depth to the tracks, such as on the pop gem ‘Ill Fit’, or the atmospheric chants of ‘Home’. The rare stripped back moments such as in the title track ‘Pollen’ rather than breaking the flow of the album, draws you in that little bit further.

If you could somehow get inside this album you would find yourself happily roller-skating along a spectacularly long lightning bolt with a thousand tiny shiny gold cats flying through the air next to you, with your roller blades sparking beneath you as you fly ever on and the music filling the air around you, almost palpable. Until of course the album finishes and with a small pop you’d be back into your cold kitchen, with the smell of stale disappointment and the slow hum of a fridge as your only companion. If you are thinking of attempting to pass into this musical universe (and I in no way condone this), remember to wrap up warm and make sure to wear elbow pads.