Release Date: May 28, 2013
Record label: !K7
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
The time has come for Danish post-pop quartet When Saints Go Machine to release their much-anticipated third long-player. Infinity Pool is a highly synthetic effort that sees the band fall further into the rabbit hole of electronica. Almost every strand of sound has a sci-fi twang to it – from the manufactured beats to the robotic tenor of Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild.
Don't come to this record if you want cheering up. Suffused with a melancholy that sometimes passes into foreboding, Infinity Pool can sound as if it was recorded on a promontory overlooking the end of the world. But then the end of the world would have some grandeur about it, and so does the second album by this Copenhagen four-piece. It's not unfair to describe it as electronic pop, because the song structures and Antony Hegartyesque vocals of lead singer Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild hold the whole thing together.
Infinity Pool is just as deep and bottomless a record as its title suggests. Layered, textural synths and hollow, hip-hop-indebted backbeats are the calling card of this Danish four-piece; while the band's sound here is as chaotically multifaceted as ever, it also represents some of their most cohesive and comprehensible music to date. .
When Saints Go Machine earned enough praise for the haunting art pop of their second album, Konkylie, that when it came time to deliver a follow-up, the quartet could have easily rested on their laurels. Fortunately, on Infinity Pool, they continue to challenge themselves and their listeners by streamlining their sound and expanding it in unexpected ways. They do both on the opening track, "Love and Respect," which introduces Infinity Pool's harder-edged, more overtly electronic style and also boasts a cameo by rapper Killer Mike.
From the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ anti-cellphone signage to Savages’ humanist manifestos, the 2013 musical landscape is starting to resemble a Terminator-style revolt against our machine masters. Even the robot rockers in Daft Punk are using their rare press appearances to extol the virtues of using real, live sentient beings to perform on their new record. But don’t expect When Saints Go Machine to join the uprising; the Danish quartet don’t just embrace electronics, they surrender to them.
When Saints Go Machine’s 2011 release, Konkylie, was an easily digestible exercise in synth-pop that garnered the four-piece a heap of awards in their native Denmark. Infinity Pool, the group’s third full-length release, is a determined approach to sway the band from the euphoria of the dance floor to the intimate, erudite spaces of isolation. This is fitting, given that they revealed that both the countryside house that birthed Konkylie and a brief attempt to record in a large studio proved fruitless this go-around.
It takes just over 45 minutes to listen to ‘Infinity Pool’. Just over 45 minutes to absorb it in its entirety – but far longer to decide how you feel about it, particularly in comparison to When Saints Go Machine’s last effort, 2011’s ‘Konkylie’.Still of the synth-pop vein in part, the Danish band’s latest release has taken a dark turn, focusing much more on hard electronica. There’s something else though.
Somewhere between self-conscious anti-pop and hedonist Eurotrash lies When Saints Go Machine—a band not content to write straight and catchy club songs, yet so good with hooks that you often wish it would. As an improbable first single behind Infinity Pool, the group’s follow-up to its winning debut Konkylie (2011), it paired up with Killer Mike and released the rattling trap dirge “Love and Respect,” which does nothing for the band but confound its intentions. The rest of this album has a similar frustration to its patchwork sprawl: it’s ambitious for ambition’s sake, alternately too spare and too noisy, never so momentous as to gel into a suitable vehicle for lead singer Nikolaj Vonsild’s beautiful, androgynous falsetto.