Release Date: Feb 12, 2013
Record label: CTD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
With their 2008 LP ‘O Soundtrack My Heart’, PVT were in competition with Caribou and former Warp labelmates Battles. Yet while their contemporaries started edging towards broader influences, the Australian trio’s stubborn commitment to sleek futurism has left them out of fashion. ‘Homosapien’ mightn’t change that, but it’s terrific nonetheless, a coiling gothica sci-fi soundtrack that cocoons Richard Pike’s echo-soaked vocal amid pulsing, binary-code electronics.
Australia is a land that is, more often than not, accustomed to producing uncompromising slabs of fried rock as opposed to the cool, experimental electronica that saw PVT – pronounced “pivot”, vowels dropped following the threat of a lawsuit from an identically monikered US group – become the first band from their country to sign to Warp. Domestic success failed to translate overseas however, with fellow countrymen Cut Copy probably bolstering the international reputation for Aussie dance a little too late. Now rehomed at Felte, Homosapien is PVT’s fourth outing, and they’ve rallied to make their most accomplished record to date.
When a band makes a showy change to their established sound – the sudden injection of a horn section, or the decision to ‘go electric’ – it can often come across as little more than an admission to having run out of ideas. It’s interesting to note, then, that PVT (or Pivot as they were once known) decided to lose their vowels and gain a vocalist while they were still very much on an upward creative surge as an instrumental outfit, in no apparent need of a reshuffle or a spice up. The introduction of vocals and a heavier focus on electronics on 2010’s Church With No Magic has been taken even further with Homosapien but, sadly, the further PVT push in this direction, the further they stray from everything which made career highlight O Soundtrack My Heart so vital and promising.
On their fourth studio album, Homosapien, London-via-Sydney trio PVT once again explore the tension between the electric and organic, mingling electronics with vintage keyboards and live instrumentation to a dark, atmospheric end — think Tubeway Army, but with better drums. With multi-instrumentalist Richard Pike taking on the role of vocalist-in-chief, using his range (from deep throated growler to emotive howler) more in the standard "guy singing over the track" way than previously, PVT now have more of an emotional, accessible core on which to build — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Album opener "Shiver" is a mysterious slow boil of a song bubbling with synth bleeps and vocal distortion.
"Shiver", the first song on Australian electro rock trio PVT's third album, begins with warm analog synth arpeggios and the vocals of frontman Richard Pike layered and detuned into a syrupy psychedelic sound that's barely human. As the song progresses, it accumulates parts that either support a melodic, even twee, pop side, or undercut it with a current of aggressive sonic weirdness. It's a fascinatingly unpredictable and completely enjoyable song.
At the risk of oversimplifying things, there are really only two philosophies in music: Either a band’s first album is their most impressive (because it takes a lifetime to produce the first record and only a few months to produce the second) or the bands first album forms a base from which to grow and evolve. PVT sit firmly in the later category with their fourth full length aptly titled Homosapien. The Sydney based trio have had to change their name for legal reasons (formerly Pivot) and while doing so, also changed their sound from their experimental beginnings to a unique brand of darkened synth-pop with smatterings of alt-rock attitude.