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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original Sin,
This review is from: In Conflict (Audio CD)
What is the indelible black blob partially obscuring the words of two
songs printed on the CD cover of Owen Pallett's new album 'In Conflict'?
A blot on his copy book? The Mark of Cain? The Stain of (a highly)
Original Sin? Whatever its meaning we can be certain that it presages a
work of high musical seriousness. Mr Pallett, in these thirteen marvelous
inventions, digs deep into his psyche and imagination and comes back
with a host of startling contradictions. Love; lust; loss; regret; loneliness;
the delights and ever-present dangers of intimacy. The project is deeply
personal and scrupulously self-analytical, sometimes painfully so but in
the end the total sum of his inner-journey quite takes one's breath away.
From the stunningly mellifluous string entry (the FILMharmonic Orchestra
Prague, both here and elsewhere, on top form) of the opening number 'I
Am Not Afraid' we are immediately aware that this will not be an ordinary
ride. Mr Pallett's grasp of melody, texture and rhythm bears witness to his
formal classical education in richly complex arrangements which frame his
startlingly beautiful voice; a strong, natural tenor with a ringing falsetto
up on top. All this and he's a mean fiddle player too! (Do listen to his fine
contribution on the 2013 recording of David Lang's haunting work 'Death
Speaks' too). He has gathered an illustrious ensemble of musicians around
him including Brian Eno on guitar, vocals and synths; Matt Smith on bass;
Robbie Gordon on drums and Thomas Gill on guitar, all of whom contribute
sympathetically to the creation of a wholly convincing and vivid sound world.
'In Conflict' has the character of a song-cycle all of whose parts have some
relationship to a coherent whole. Within this structure there are moments of
perfect calm (the lovely miniature brass interlude '--->') and others of fierce
turbulence (witness the stormy 'The Riverbed') but it is in compositions such
as the blindingly honest 'The Passions' and the lyrically ambiguous but sublimely
melodic 'Soldiers Rock' that we experience the full force of Mr Pallett's vision.
One of the year's most exciting and satisfying releases.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Owen Pallet - Fighting off the ideas,
This review is from: In Conflict (MP3 Download)
Anyone who heard Owen Pallet's last album "Heartland" knows the meaning of true love. It restored your faith in music. True you had to cut through the bizarre concept behind it of a themed album about an ultra-violent farmer named Lewis in the fictional world of Spectrum. Yet a number of other great albums have silly concepts, indeed it is understood that the Beatles recorded one? Pallet is a violinist par excellence and a musician not unlike Sufjan Stevens who is renown for orchestration which has underpinned some of the work of the Butlers in that popular Canadian beat combo Arcade Fire. More a composer than pop star Pallet has gone more conventional for this 2014 album "In Conflict" with no concept other than the strength of the songs.
On balance "In conflict" is a much darker beast that "Heartland". there is nothing on here that makes you punch the air with the sheer joyful exhilaration brought about by the greatest song of 2010 "Lewis takes his shirt off". That is not to say that the album is not rewarding, it is packed with musical "thank you" notes. Opener "I'm not afraid" is a complex pop structure with a piano segment that sounds like "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence" and Pallet's lush vocal delivery. The title track is kind of Rufus Wainwright meets Beach House affair and full of sumptuous layered melodies. A track like a "Song for five or Six" is possibly the nearest thing here that could have fitted on Heartland with its complex synths and pounding orchestration. The highlight however is a song that is gloriously simple and entitled "Passions". If this were a beautiful girl it would completely turn your head. Detailing some of Pallet's most personal reflections to date at one point he regretfully reflects that "As we try to get it on in bed/ you've given me your home and head/ You put on The Queen is Dead/ But I just want to talk instead/ Compassion, compassion". Perhaps the notoriously celibate Morrissey has that effect during copulation although the song itself is a thing of beauty. Others like "Riverbed" do echo the instrumental force of bands like Grizzly Bear. Sadly not all of it works "Internal Fantasy" for example sees the synths drown out Pallet's vocal and it all feels rather messy, whilst the "Sky behind the Flag" sounds like a song that Godley and Creme might have considered for a B Side.
If you approach "In Conflict" as a straightforward comparison with "Heartland" the latter played the stronger hand. Yet this is Owen Pallet the gifted composer, the voice of an angel and musical polymath. He is never dull and frequently sublime. This album may lack the cohesion and joy de vivre of its illustrious predecessor but it is damn fine music and will serve well until this wonderful composer finally paints his inevitable masterpiece.
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