Say what you like about Archie Pelago, but you can’t accuse them of laziness. Not only have they released nine records in three years, but every single one of them has been unique and refreshing – even when compared to one another.
This fervent experimentalism is woven into the trio’s very DNA; when Archie Pelago run out of ground to break, this reviewer suspects they will go their separate ways and set to work finding more. Luckily for us, the versatility of their winning formula is not yet approaching its limits. For those unfamiliar, the aforementioned formula, when simplified, reads: Live Saxophonist + Strings x Ableton = Awesome.
The group’s propensity for higher tempos, first hinted at on the Sly Gazabo EP, is fully explored here on Lakeside Obelisk. Lead track D’s Diamonds gets the ball rolling slowly, starting off with a piano-led hip-hop groove before double timing into a smooth house roller with a healthy dose of class. Continuing the steady ascent in tempo, Chilly is a throwback to the trio’s dubstep days, light on instruments and heavy on 808. Sunny synths and pitched-down vocals allude to a higher energy release than we have come to expect from Archie Pelago, and the EP’s title tracks makes good on that promise.
After meandering in half-tempo for a minute or so, the Amen Breaks start filtering through, sending the piece into a compelling balancing act between suave, relaxing melodies and some seriously up-tempo breaks. A charming oddity, this tune warrants revisiting if only on the merit of its nerve.
Neighbourhood Mephisto ramps up the energy further still, investigating juke and footwork territory for its nearly ten minute run time. Frenzied drum work meets frenetic, unsettled melodies in a whirlwind piece that picks you up, stuffs you into a supercar, then fires you to crazy dancing town.
For all that stress, Saturn V apologises with a delicate female vocal lead layered with filtered drums and faux-vinyl crackle. This being Archie Pelago, the opportunity for a dance in the middle isn’t missed, but contrary to the majority of the EP, percussion plays second fiddle to the romantic inclinations of melody on this track.
This EP does what Archie Pelago have always done so well: by juxtaposing and collaging such disparate musical tropes, it creates something much more than a mere portmanteau of genera for fickle novelty, but an entirely new mode of approaching the boundaries we impose on music. Borders between tempos, genres, organic and electronic or live and recorded music, none of these mean a thing to Archie Pelago; and long may it be so.