A lot has happened since PTTRNS unleashed their debut, Science Piñata, in 2010. That record took the former trio on an extensive tour, which saw them adopt an ‘everybody plays anything’ policy – allowing the audience to take part in the performance in whatever way possible. This, by sheer fortune, also brought them a brand new band member, Hendrik Frese.
Their latest effort, and first full-length release as a quartet, Body Pressure (which takes its title from a 1974 performance piece by contemporary artist Bruce Nauman) brings their electronic-based influences to the forefront. Whereas Science Piñata could be lazily pigeonholed as ‘math rock’, they’ve progressed significantly in terms of sound. It’s bigger than before, with more use of keyboards and synthesisers, bringing a dancier atmosphere with it. One aspect of their sound that remains recognisably unaltered is the percussion, still acting as a frenetic and powerful driving force.
Body Pressure begins with an almighty bang. Healing starts life as a series of mysterious synth effects before a thumping kick-drum arrives in a decidedly unsubtle manner. From there on in, the momentum gradually grows until, after a quick moment to catch a breather, a wave of euphoric keyboards crash. It’s a truly immense pay-off for such a lengthy build-up.
Another other stand out is the punchy Strong Talk. The combination of funky guitars and house-era beats and synths make for the album’s most accessible song. Elsewhere, there are some inventive touches that add much to the enjoyment of Body Pressure; Resonate is made worthwhile when things mix up halfway through as the rhythm goes from twitchy to full-on disco. And Dice puts a noodly and hypnotic guitar against tumbling drums and vocals that bring to mind The Rapture.
With the exception of Dialed In, which doesn’t really have a lot of substance to it and feels like an immediate comedown given its placing right after Healing, the album’s weaker moments are mostly in the second half. Major Nature borrows heavily from r’n’b and hip-hop grooves but the forgettable outcome doesn’t work particularly well. True Journalism is pleasant enough but at seven and a half minutes long feels a little overcooked, whilst Unresolved is underwhelming as an closing track.
As a body of work then, Body Pressure is a frustrating mix of dancefloor-ready jams and meandering interludes that lack direction. That isn’t to say that PTTRNS’ evolution has been a mistake – the duelling digital and analogue aesthetics have the potential to be thrilling. But what’s lacking is some focus and consistency.