Pendulum - In Silico
Tue 13th May, 2008 Music Reviewsin
There’s something almost scary about a sophomore release from one of your favourite groups. There’s almost too many daunting possibilities. How will it measure up to their first album? Have they worked out how to recapture that original magic, without selling out their sound? Will I be horribly disappointed? It was with unsteady hands that I inserted the promotional copy of Pendulum’s upcoming In Silico album into the CD player, and started to listen to the long-awaited follow up from one of Australia’s most successful and enigmatic electronic groups. And after the incredible success of Hold Your Colour, it seems an almost impossible task to match their first creation.
From the opening bars of the first tune Showdown, it is clear Pendulum are making a statement. The slamming rock drums and raw vocals are more comparable to The White Stripes than a drum n’ bass act, and it’s clear that we’re in for something different and new. You don’t want to be too quick to jump to any conclusions though: the tune gradually progresses into one of those ball-breaking Pendulum numbers that we’re familiar with, dishing out plenty of full-faced bass and storming percussion. And for those who’ve heard Propane Nightmares, the first single from the album, it in many ways exemplifies what’s to be expected here. Across the whole album Rob Swire’s vocals are much more prominent, making this feel more like a release from a band rather than a series of collaborations. In fact, this album is noticeable for its lack of guest vocalists and MCs, something that was quite a prominent a feature on Hold Your Colour.
There are some truly beautiful moments on In Silico. Their track 9,000 Miles has that epic touch that Pendulum fans are so familiar with, with its touches of beautiful acoustic guitar, sweet strings and delicate arpeggios that roll up and down the spine. All up this is a 7-minute epic that is as understated as it is moving, giving the melodies an acre of space to set up camp and explore. There are more soaring melodies and tender vocals on Different, coupled this time with big-room beats.
But it’s not all good news. It seems that whenever Pendulum verge too close to pop, their creative edge is dulled. There are a few tunes on the album like The Other Side that come across as a little generic, meandering aimlessly through some fairly predictable territory. It also seems that Pendulum have developed an unhealthy obsessions with their vocoder toys, dropping robo-esque vocals a little too frequently across their tunes. In my opinion, Pendulum are at their best when unashamedly trying to create something beautiful. The heavier moments on this album (of which there are many), lack any real distinctiveness as one crunching synth stab tends to just blends into another. Mutiny is a ball-breaker of a tune; Midnight Runner an explosion of energy, with one of those basslines that just seems insurmountably thick. However, they don’t stay with me.
In Silico finishes with _The Tempest, an entirely appropriate encapsulation of the new sound. There are massive guitar riffs blended into heavy sections of dropped beats, and it finishes with a truly epic chord line that builds like a gathering storm. And confusingly, the fact that Pendulum have decided to focus their sound is both this albums’ biggest strength and weakness. That amazing diversity and richness of sound that was present on Hold Your Colour is not as evident here, and is probably going to leave a few fans disappointed. However, what Pendulum set out to achieve they’ve achieve well. In Silico is a much tighter effort than their earlier release, focused on harnessing a sound that’s a lot rawer, intense and that finds its roots in some heavy rockin’ guitar riffs. And it sounds like the product of a band collaborating on the live stage, rather than just a few guys twiddling knobs in the studio, and as much as it is a cliché, In Silico is a grower – it simply does become more enjoyable with every listen. There are some definite flat spots, and it probably won’t climb the great heights of its predecessor, but this is still a solid collection of pretty amazing tunes.
Have a look at the tracklisting…
3. Propane Nightmares
5. Midnight Runner
6. The Other Side
8. 9,000 Miles
10. The Tempest
And have a look at this hard-rockin’ clip pf Pendulum performing at Fabric…