March 21, 2018 Preoccupations – New Material (Album Review)
Ring the alarm – another early album of the year contender is here. Preoccupations – though you may have once known them as Viet Cong – are set to drop their latest full-length album, New Material, on March 23rd via Jagjaguwar, and it is a massive one. Perhaps not massive in scope with only eight tracks, but certainly in sound and feeling.
There are few bands, if any, creating music like the echoing, Post-Punk, Darkwave sounds Preoccupations bring to the table. With their third full-length effort, Preoccupations are carving out an entirely new space for themselves in a scene that is rife with bland copies. New Material was self-recorded by the Calgary, Alberta, Canada quartet, but the band left the mixing and mastering to Justin Meldal-Johnson (M83, Wolf Alice) to bring the album’s lush synths and shadowy percussions to life.
While New Material often sounds chaotic, it is clear that Preoccupations have thoughtfully crafted every note, deconstructing and reforming until each track perfectly elicited that disaffected feeling tying the album together. Even so, New Material offers up some of the band’s most gorgeous and up-tempo work thus far. The band has taken their unique established sound and taken it to new and thrilling places.The album’s opener and lead single, “Espionage,” echoes with hints of Bauhaus and New Order with a contemporary spin. Vocalist Matt Flegel’s raspy lyrics are hazy with reverb as clanging percussions lead this dark, moody experience that makes for one of the album’s stand-out tracks.
Somewhat surprising after the heavy mood of “Espionage,” “Decompose” is a misleadingly light and airy piece that is only tied to the rest of New Material by its dark, rumbling bass line and bleak synths. “Disarray,” another stand-out, follows a similar deceitful path with up-tempo percussion and stellar, clean melody while Flegel chants “disarray, disarray, disarray.”
“Manipulation” makes for the perfect, mellow midpoint that allows Flegel to explore his vocal potential to its fullest. The instrumentals are minimal, but still manage to invoke a heavy mood similar to “Espionage” with well-placed chaotic drum fills and a slick keyboard melody.
Following that, “Solace” is a hazy, dreamy track that feels like a Joy Division B-side in the best way. With resonating synthy echoes and a disarmingly bright guitar riff over a dark, rumbling bass line, “Solace” morphs from a catchy New Wave-inspired bop into a thickly layered dirge, making for one of the album’s best moments.
Another stellar track is “Doubt,” which draws its percussion intro directly from your favorite Joy Division tracks to create yet another dispirited Post-Punk with minimalistic progression, while closer “Compliance” uses only two chords to piece together the band’s only instrumental track. That choice may seem odd, but a few spins of this record will prove that these lush, layered tones are the perfect finisher for this killer record.
Preoccupations has crafted an elegant and lushly produced album that draws inspiration from the best of New Wave and melds in some entirely unique Post-Punk moods, resulting in the band’s most brilliantly crafted work to date. Preoccupations has a sound that may draw inspiration from the past, but what they are creating is the future. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives New Material 5 out of 5 stars.