The first song on Church With No Magic seems to go on forever. ‘Community’ is only 104 seconds long but the swirling sense of space that pervades the song gives it an air or inescapability. It’s a real headphone song, the sweeping filters of the synth line in constant motion, circling around the echoing vocals. It’s a great way to start an album and it gives way to a song that showcases just about everything that PVT do so well; ‘Light Up Bright Fires’ with its irresistible industrial beat, rock-solid bass and sharp catchy vocals. All in all, an impressive opening salvo.
Church With No Magic is the Australians’ second album, though their first under their new vowel-eschewing name. The record is a definite development of their sound from O Soundtrack My Heart, a sound we’ve seen grow through a series of note-worthy remixes, including their fine showing on last year’s Warp20 compilation where they turned Grizzly Bear’s -Colorado’ into spaced out, bleepy electronica. The influence of the New Yorkers certainly seems to have been taken on board and embraced here with almost choral harmonies providing an ethereal counterpoint to the often dense and dark musical underbelly. While usually quite well executed, the contrast can at times split a song in two, leaving a track feeling somewhat directionless.
Such criticism could not be applied to the first single from the album, ‘Window’. Undoubtedly the best choice for a lead single, it is as close as PVT get to pop sensibility. The most joyful moment on the album comes as the tempo drops coming into the build-up to the bright, busy and instantly loveable final chorus. It once again shows the Australians’ ability to cram myriad ideas into 90-second chunks. Unfortunately not all of these ideas have the stamina to last over the length of an album. If they can maintain the intensity of their finest moments over the full course of forty-odd minutes, they might have something special on their hands next time around. For now we have a fine album by a band with bundles of talent.