PVT: Church With No Magic

Categories: Review Roundup
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What happens when a previously instrumental band decides to add some vocals to the mix? The jury is still out on that -- just ask RJD2 -- although the reception is never quite as positive as it could be. Australia's PVT (formerly Pivot) are going through these exact same vocal growing pains with rather mixed results. The trio's third album Church With No Magic hits store shelves today, complete with a name change/vowel-drop and new, before unknown vocals. 

Church is the second album from the band released on Warp and while the overall sound fits in well with Warp's roster the new vocals are a bumpy transition. Interestingly enough, the vocals are not the fly in the album's ointment. Some of the band's ambition on songs like "Crimson Swan" comes in too late to be noticed -- what could have been a stellar song is weighed down by an uneventful, painstakingly plain buildup whose payoff is too little too late. Thankfully, Church is bolstered by the fantastic lead single "Window," a brilliant song that showcases just how productive PVT can be when they stick to the meat-and-potatoes aspect of their sound, rather than the outlandish, cerebral misgivings that come across as "artsy" yet are confusedly boring. Church has the pedigree to be a truly unique and polished effort -- unfortunately, blind, tedious ambition simply gets in the way.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

BBC Music: But let Church... play through a few times and its charms become evident. Circle of Friends and the quite lovely Window pull off the trick of sounding both claustrophobic and expansive at the same time, while the title-track is a riot of barely controlled noise that somehow reconfigures itself at the end like an exploding building viewed in reverse.

MusicOHM: Church With No Magic suggests that the band's identity issues may go deeper than simply their enforced name change. It takes the band further away from easy categorisation with the post-rock or math-rock tags. The most transparent development since O Soundtrack My Heart is the appearance of vocals. Richard Pike manages to vary his voice so significantly as to sound like a range of different singers. This is impressive, but the results are mixed.

Drowned in Sound: It's elsewhere that the album fails to find a solid foothold. The sombre, dirge like 'Crimson Swan' explodes into life at its midpoint and is almost almighty, but the fluctuating pitch shift which layers it gives the whole affair an Eighties sci-fi flick feel. It's a trick which is repeated again on the altogether less engaging 'The Quick Mile' and most criminally on 'Timeless', which sounds so heavily indebted to Portishead's Third (and several of the bands they too 'borrowed' from) that I had to check my iPod hadn't skipped tracks.

Rave Magazine: Church With No Magic is cohesive, locked into a dense industrial groove that hits peaks of earth-shattering drums and synths that swallow your ears whole, then dips into warm lakes of glowing analogue tones.

Church With No Magic is out now via Warp.



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