It’s been four long years since The Presets released their breakthrough album, Apocalypso. An album which sky rocketed the Sydney-based duo to enormous levels of popularity and ubiquity in their homeland. Since then, they’ve had some time off and returned to to record a third LP on their own terms without deadlines or commitments.
On first glance, Pacifica is an album of ten arena-ready club tunes. There’s no doubting that it is ambitious in places and veers towards a more mainstream direction, aiming for a much more broader audience. Indeed, some of the songs are generously covered in radio-friendly hooks that even the most stubborn ravers would find hard to ignore.
One such song is Promises, a song so indebted to the 80s it might as well have been an off cut from the most recent M83 LP, but with an utterly irresistible key melody. Equally euphoric is the trance-like Fall, which is unabashed hands-in-the-air stuff, and Fast Seconds, which starts off with a classic house piano sound and then accelerates from there.
There’s more to it than that though. Throughout Pacifica they tease the listener: every time you expect a big drop with a thumping four-to-the-flour beat and buzzing synthesisers you’re greeted with something a bit more minimal. There’s always the sense that there is an explosion of noise buried underneath the bubbling electronics waiting to be unleashed and it’s only at the very end when this happens. Of course, the downside of this strategy is that some songs (It’s Cool) don’t really seem to go anywhere.
Then there are the songs that focus heavily Julian Hamilton’s singing. Hamilton is by no means the best singer in the world, though on occasion his bellowing voice does add energy and enthusiasm. However, while Ghosts and A.O. provide plenty of room for him to yell, his style ultimately makes for a jarring experience. The final salvo, Fail Epic, sadly seems to be a very apt description (if you switch the words around anyway) as what should be an atmospheric and spectacular climax ends up being a damp squid.
Pacifica is the result of a band who want to get people dancing until 4am while still being heavily emotive. It’s a fine line and it’s not one that they tread well. It’s a perfectly satisfactory album, but save for one or two moments of brilliance, there’s nothing here that will keep you coming back for more.There’s still room in the world for The Presets, even after such a long absence, but they need to offer a lot more than this.