Until last summer, I didn’t know much about drum and bass band Pendulum, except that young people in the UK (the main audience of BBC Radio1) adored them so much that anything as much as a hint to new Pendulum material would cause mass shockwaves through Twitter. No one I knew on this side of the Atlantic knew who they were, and I expected a similar lack of knowledge in Scandinavia. But wow, what a reception the band got at Roskilde Festival last summer. I witnessed a manic crowd reaction, but in a way, I expected it: the genius of Pendulum – and also of Immersion, their most mainstream release to date – is the combination of heavy guitars and drums and quick-tempo emanating electronics that interest guys with dance beats and lead singer Rob Swire‘s sexy vocals that have proved quite popular with girls.
Here are the basics: Pendulum started out in Perth, Australia as a drum and bass band in the early Noughties. The group – then just Swire, bassist Gareth McGrillen, and DJ Paul Harding – soon relocated to the UK, the ancestral home of rave music (they’re now based in London). This turned out to be a fateful move, as after gaining several bandmates, the band released their 2005 debut album, Hold Your Colour, which contained their first UK singles top 40 hit, the double A-sided “Slam” / “Out Here.” Their second album, In Silico, was their first release in America. Coming up later this month, their third album, Immersion, will be released stateside, more than 6 months after the UK release of the album and its reaching #1 on the UK Top 40 albums chart the week of its release. Immersion reflects a more electronic-heavy, dance-driven sound than its two predecessors.
“Genesis” is the opening track of the album, and it begins not unlike something you’d hear on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. It sets the stage for the grandeur your ears are going to experience next, mixing right into instrumental “Salt in the Wounds.” Halfway through, the songs break down, making you think it’s going to mellow out for the rest of the 6 minutes, but in the 4th minute, it’s clear Pendulum is not done making your heart race, going back to frenetic, thudding beats. This song, along with singles “Watercolour,” “Witchcraft,” and “Crush,” are ones that make you jump up and down in a packed club of sweating bodies. Or at an open air music festival, as I witnessed at Roskilde.
But the best part of this album are “The Island – Pt. I (Dawn)” and “The Island – Pt. II (Dusk)”, two halves of a sonic masterpiece. Part one is a Rocky-esque pump-up kind of song, with programming and beats not too soft and not too heavy – just perfect. Swire’s expansive vocals, as if calling out across his homeland of Australia, are alternately sweet and sweltering. “Close your eyes / let’s forget again / as you drag me down / I will take you in / what are you waiting for? / just surrender here tonight / what are you waiting for? / as we go towards the light…” – gulp. I could listen to this track all day. Rob Swire, call me. Then part two takes over, as the electronic wizardry take center stage, the track concluding with more conventional tropical beats.
The album also has some interesting and high-profile guests. Liam Howlett of seminal big beat English electronic group the Prodigy lent his cowriting and production talents to “Immunize”; while it’s no “Breathe ” or “Invaders Must Die,” it’s still pretty good. Prog/psych band Porcupine Tree founder Steve Wilson cowrote and sings on “The Fountain,” which sounds neither proggy or psychedelic and is instead the most unique track on the album, driven by piano along with the electronic beats and drums.
Metalheads will enjoy the more instrument-driven “Comprachicos” as well as “Self vs. Self,” a more straight-forward collaboration (vocals and traditional band instruments) between Pendulum and Swedish death metal band In Flames. Understandably, the latter features more aggressive (and in my opinion, quite scary) vocals from In Flames‘ Anders Fridén. This, along with “Set Me on Fire,” with vocals sounding vaguely Will.I.Am reggae, are probably the only numbers on Immersion that feel out of place.
Immersion is the kind of album that if you are into electronic music at all, you’ll appreciate the attention to detail this band has put into every single track. A couple weeks ago I was reading a UK electronic music magazine’s interview with Swire, and there was a photo of a small sampling of the complicated electronic equipment used to create the Pendulum sound. It’s astonishing what musicians and producers can do with electronics these days to make truly exciting music. If you get the chance to see Pendulum live this year, do it – you won’t be disappointed, I promise. The band make a special live appearance at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival at the end of March; I imagine surrounded by their peers and loads of fans, that would be the ultimate way to experience them.
Immersion will be released on Atlantic Records on January 25, 2011 in America.
02. Salt in the Wounds
04. Set Me on Fire
06. Under the Waves
07. Immunize (feat. Liam Howlett [the Prodigy])
08. The Island – Pt. I (Dawn)
09. The Island – Pt. 2 (Dusk)
11. The Vulture
13. Self vs Self (feat. In Flames)
14. The Fountain (feat. Steve Wilson [Porcupine Tree])
Jan 20 – Bank Atlantic Center / Sunrise, FL*
Jan 22 – St. Pete Times Forum / Tampa*
Jan 23 – Philips Arena / Atlanta*
Jan 25 – Joe Louis Arena / Detroit*
Jan 26 – United Center / Chicago*
Jan 28 – Xcel Energy Center / St. Paul*
Jan 29 – Sprint Center / Kansas City*
Jan 31 – Wells Fargo Center / Philadelphia*
Feb 01 – TD Garden / Boston*
Feb 02 – Guvernment / Toronto#
Feb 04 – Madison Square Garden / New York City*
Feb 05 – Irving Plaza / New York City#
Feb 07 – Bell Centre / Montreal*
Feb 08 – Air Canada Centre / Toronto*
Feb 10 – Verizon Center / Washington, DC*
Feb 11 – Mohegan Sun Arena / Uncasville, CT*
Feb 16 – Ogden Theatre / Denver#
Feb 17 – In the Venue / Salt Lake City#
Feb 19 – Showbox SoDo / Seattle#
Feb 20 – Commodore Ballroom / Vancouver#
Feb 23 – Fillmore / San Francisco#
Feb 25 – Wiltern / Los Angeles#
Feb 26 – House of Blues / Las Vegas#
Mar 25-27 – Ultra Music Festival / Miami
*supporting Linkin Park