Sunset Review :: The Presets – ‘Pacifica’
September 19th 2012
Genres seem to trend and fade away very quickly in electronic music these days, from the Americanised version of dubstep, to moombahton, to the huge popularity of trap music right now, there’s always a shiny new sub-genre which everyone seems to be influenced by in one way or another. The Presets, however, have apparently locked themselves away in a cave somewhere so that they might ignore all this nonsense, and have made an album of music not limited by genre – one that will outlive trends.
It’s a record that feels like Jason Bourne on red cordial as a young whippersnapper – full of energy and constantly jumping from one idea to the next, but with a clear mission in mind. To that end, what you get with Pacifica is an album that succeeds in capturing the attention of the ADD generation by being so diverse that it’s hard to turn away – yet it still feels like a cohesive album. Opening track ‘Youth In Trouble’ is nothing short of a techno anthem – a fidgety masterstroke in restraint and slow, satisfying release. However when track two and lead single ‘Ghosts’ opens with a calm but powerful sea of swelling chords supporting the anthemic vocals (which fittingly contain melodies and lyrics not foreign to a pirate ship) it’s hard not to be taken aback. This jarring change may disappoint you at first; you may wonder where your beloved Presets of the Apocalypso era have gone. As the album progresses though, it becomes obvious that those two tracks don’t tell the whole story, and that they make infinitely more sense in the context of the album.
Pacifica’s most prolific track that’ll hit you straight away is undoubtedly ‘A.O.’, it’s an absolute journey. The underlying synth-percussion pattern which the song opens with is immediately reminiscent of Azealia Banks’ ‘212’, but that’s soon overwhelmed by layers of dark, robotic vocals chanting “children mustn’t know that we’re living in a city that’s built on bones” – a reference to the stomping ground of The Presets’ Moyes and Hamilton – Sydney. The voices are then joined by shouts of “A! O!” alongside menacing strings and piano parts, before it all turns into a bare piano ballad, Julian painting pictures from life in his home town. Soon though, the dark elements all return and don’t ever completely leave our storyteller’s head. So he gives in and lets these feelings grow, the haunting chants recurring over and over again, darker and darker thoughts swirling around in his mind, slowly losing control as his memories and frustrations become too much. Before you know it, the man is overwhelmed and releases all this passion in an over-the-top display akin to a Japanese anime character going Super Saiyan. Knife Party, step aside – you’re about to be destroyed with lasers.
To follow this monster tune, we’re first given the digi-tribal ‘Surrender’, but more importantly, the delicious cocktail of piano house, addictive Daft-Punk-influenced ‘Technologic’-style rhythmic lyrics, minimal house basslines, soaring but sparse melodies and all-out aggression that is ‘Fast Seconds’. Put all this together with a couple of undeniably catchy pop-influenced tracks and you’re starting to get an idea of why this album is so very worth your attention.
Whatever you might think upon first putting this piece of art in your ears, The Presets are still here, it’s just not immediately obvious since we haven’t heard from them in so long. They’ve changed over time, like so many artists do, but their refusal to conform to the scene as it stands now is exactly the jolt that the industry and the listeners need to escape the infinite rise and fall of musical trends. Pacifica is not a record made for any single time period, but – somewhat ironically – the inability to place it neatly on a timeline is exactly what will see Pacifica go down as quintessentially ‘2012’.