In Conflict is, without a doubt, Owen Pallett's most difficult record to date. In place of the whimsical flourishes of his first solo LP, Heartland, are subtler, darker compositions built more from layers of string chords and underlying synths than solo violin melodies. Gone, too, are the metaphors and grand narratives that drove Heartland and Final Fantasy album He Poos Clouds. His new record is personal, forthright and often brutal; In Conflict, indeed.
Even the moments nearing jubilation seem subdued here — "Song for Five and Six" and "Infernal Fantasy" are trepidatious and chaotic, respectively, despite the energetic, arpeggiating loops that propel them, while the pep of "Soldier's Rock" belies lyrics about killing your fellow person — but subdued or not, In Conflict is still a triumph. Besides "Song for Five and Six," album highlights include the meditative "I Am Not Afraid" and the powerful "The Riverbed," moments that demonstrate Pallett's willingness to let his songs speak for themselves, free from narrative constraints.
Though less immediate than previous efforts, repeat listens to the darker, subtler In Conflict reveal yet another fascinating entry in Pallett's excellent catalogue.
Read about Pallett's monumental year here. (Secret City)