Written by Tom Williams on 24th October, 2013
Reflektor, the much-hyped, guerrilla-marketed double album from Montreal‚Äôs Arcade Fire, is a charming behemoth. Clocking in at almost 80 minutes, it also marks a drastic change in the band‚Äôs sound. Produced alongside James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem fame) and Markus Dravs (Coldplay, Bj√∂rk, Mumford & Sons), Reflektor is a glittering, disco-infused collection of tracks, and a statement of intent from one of the world’s most critically acclaimed acts.
We‚Äôve condensed those 80 minutes into a play-by-play of each track. So put on your dancing shoes and bring something shiny – here’s our reflektions.
‚ÄúOf a reflection, of a reflection, of a reflection, of a reflection…‚ÄĚ Bouncy synth lines and a four-on-the-floor rhythm; the James Murphy-isms have already seeped in. Arcade Fire‚Äôs airy charm is still there from track one, just layered with horns, strings and synths. Oh, and there are a few lines of French from vocalist R√©gine Chassagne and an appearance from David Bowie, for art‚Äôs sake.
2. We Exist
A formula is coming into view: layer a heap of instruments, hold the resulting texture for maximum impact, come off as ‚Äėarena-ready‚Äô. 2013‚Äôs flirtations with retro-futurism *cough*Daft Punk*cough* come through with some ’80s flashback synths, and suddenly Arcade Fire have an effortless cool about them.
3. Flashbulb Eyes
Dub bass lines, more jumping electronics, echoing vocals a la The Flaming Lips, xylophones and some hypnotic Haitian rhythms. ‚ÄúHit me with your flashbulb eyes‚ÄĚ sings frontman Win Butler. Can a photograph really steal a part of your soul?
4. Here Comes the Night Time
The rhythm is still dancey, but now there‚Äôs a childlike piano melody over the top of it. Something isn‚Äôt right. The track fidgets, bounces on a reggae pulse, before descending into an all-out tribal party. Which means galloping drums, wailing guitars and ENERGY.
5. Normal Person
‚ÄúDo you like rock ‚Äėn‚Äô roll music? / Cause I don‚Äôt know if I do,‚ÄĚ mutters Butler. But Normal Person is a song with an ironically acerbic stadium-rock sound rarely seen in Arcade Fire‚Äôs previous work. It‚Äôs mosh-friendly. It climbs, falls, then climbs again. What‚Äôs ‚Äėnormal‚Äô these days anyway?
6. You Already Know
This track begins with talk show host Jonathan Ross announcing in his warm British tone, ‚ÄúArcade Fire!‚ÄĚ, and ends with the applause of his audience. In the middle, that formula is still being pushed, still bouncy and bittersweet. Think Rock the Casbah meets Talking Heads circa 1980.
7. Joan of Arc
The last track of Reflektor‚Äôs first half, this one is dotted with punk-ish guitar work and more French from Chassagne. Parts are sing-a-long friendly, but the track still has a slight darkness to it.
(Live from Salsatheque, Montreal)
8. Here Comes the Night Time II
Now we‚Äôre in the second half. This one‚Äôs not so much a reprise for Here Comes the Night Time as it is a bridge to Reflektor‚Äôs more introverted side. The glitchy electronics are still there, but the overall vibe is immediately more sombre, spacey and serious. But not for long.
9. Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)
Tribal drumming, a bass line with a certain Arctic Monkeys quality to it, roomy synths and even some noisy, screeching dissonance. The Greek love-myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, in which Orpheus fails to retrieve his wife from the underworld by playing his music, becomes a central narrative. Butler laments ‚ÄúWill you ever get free?‚ÄĚ
10. It‚Äôs Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
Chassagne adopts the Eurydice character. ‚ÄúHey Orpheus! I‚Äôm behind you! Don‚Äôt turn around!‚ÄĚ she says. Starting out with more danceable funk and a cool swagger, this one morphs into something quite graceful.
Ignoring the ultimate elegance of the track before it, Porno gives us some kind of cheesy porno soundtrack recreation, with a Bee Gees backdrop and some finger-clicking. It‚Äôs not overly lighthearted though, the song‚Äôs beautifully expressive ending posits that ‚ÄúLove is real / A good disease‚ÄĚ.
The Haitian rhythms return, dashes of luscious green foliage amongst all the shiny, metallic melodies: a ‚Äúmash up of Studio 54 and Haitian voodoo‚ÄĚ it most certainly is.
Reflektor‚Äôs most reserved track, Supersymmetry closes the album with a redeeming, slow-burning electronic trance of digital drones, shrills, beeps, bleeps and velcro synths. It paints a humbling picture of a band moving towards a more experimental, intricately detailed sound.
Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is released in Australia next Friday, 1st November. Stay tuned for Music Feeds‘ in-depth review next week!
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