PVT Homosapien

On their fourth studio album, Homosapien, London-via-Sydney trio PVT once again explore the tension between the electric and organic, mingling electronics with vintage keyboards and live instrumentation to a dark, atmospheric end — think Tubeway Army, but with better drums. With multi-instrumentalist Richard Pike taking on the role of vocalist-in-chief, using his range (from deep throated growler to emotive howler) more in the standard "guy singing over the track" way than previously, PVT now have more of an emotional, accessible core on which to build — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Album opener "Shiver" is a mysterious slow boil of a song bubbling with synth bleeps and vocal distortion. Album standout "Nightfall" is chockfull of textured, driving rhythms and a cold, harmonic chorus, although "Electric" is too heavy on the '80s goth histrionics. While not without its high points, there are times when Homosapien feels empty, repetitive and backed into the corner of a single sonic idea, either unable or unwilling to escape. Is it EDM? Is it rock with vintage synths? Isn't this already well-worn territory? While the tension between live and synthetic elements is interesting to listen to, Homosapien lacks the kind of grand creative spark that's often born from this. In this particular battle of man vs. machine, we'll have to call it a draw, but I look forward to what the next round may hold. (Last Gang)