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. Picking up where Church With No Magic left off, Homosapien continues to move in a forward motion towards something beyond even the band’s own grasp. As a race, humans have stopped evolving for a couple hundred thousand years not because we are a masterful, but rather because we are able to cover up our flaws and weaknesses. Similarly, Homosapien is at times somewhat unrefined and confusing, but generally it presents as a complex and accomplished beast. Caught somewhere between electronic black holes and overly exaggerated percussive beats, the album features some absolutely excellent tracks with equally awkward moments on the other end of the spectrum. Literally and figuratively, the album is a true representation of a Homosapien.
Probably the most disappointing track is “Electric’ and despite Richard Pike’s constant and repetitive claim of “I am electric”, his monotone delivery and the overall musical production, which relies way to heavily on an over-used alt-rock rhythm section, proves otherwise. Perhaps the most confusing moment comes in the opening seconds of Homosapien where The Who‘s ‘Baba O’Riley’ motif is played by a cold electric twin not doing any justice to the original. Thankfully, ‘Shiver’ also introduces us to the eerie harmonisations that ebb and flow throughout the album and add a nice bit of texture to the vocals. There are a few tracks that would pass through without too much confrontation, thereby also leaving little mark. In that nondescript category, we can place ‘Love & Defeat’ and the closer, ‘Ziggurat’, which spirals up and down a staircase of ambient synth-work and offers little in the way of a pop aesthetic the band works so hard to create in the other tracks. So, like humanity, Homosapien is flawed, but also brilliant.
In a music market driven by single songs, rather than albums, it is always advantageous to have a couple of massive hooks available for the mixtape or playlist crowd. Homosapien happily obliges with songs like ‘Evolution’, ‘Cold Romance’ or ‘Casual Success’. Each track has that feeling of being bigger than the album and offers plenty of danceable parts and sing-a-long moments. But there is another…
In their title track, PVT have taken the spasms of glitchy vocal cuts and blended them with crunchy guitars and an intense reverbed percussion. ‘Homosapien’ is evolution at its finest point, with sonic combinations that can stop you dead in your tracks to ponder the production of the whole thing, and while it might not stray from that classic four chord progression heard a thousand times before, the mixing of seemingly complex elements into extremely accessible textures advances PVT’s cause in their quest for total metamorphosis.
Homosapien is a good album with great moments. Given the bands acclaim over the years and their constant need for growth, PVT’s greatest success lies in their kindling of the pioneer spirit. Homosapien can loosely be defined as a gothic synth-pop record, but there are number of un-definable elements that make this thing live and breathe.