The Raveonettes‘ latest album arrives with a distinct lack of fanfare. It’s had little build up, little precursory spiel, very little in the way of the expectation building cycle you’d normally expect. Still, if that approach has recently proven good enough for albums from David Bowie and Beyoncé, it’s surely good enough for anyone.
What is abundantly clear is that the reasoning behind keeping it on the down-low is definitely not related to sneaking out any great stylistic shift. Pe’ahi is not The Raveonettes having a stab at swing, or spreading their EDM wings having spent the last three months falling in love with Skrillex.
Pe’ahi is as pitch black and as hard boiled as ever, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo’s velvet fist in an iron glove approach to wrapping stylish, noiry, ’60s indebted pop in overdriven guitar packaging remaining intact. The only point where the air of secrecy surrounding Pe’ahi starts making a little more sense is when it really cuts loose and the enveloping fuzz and noise gets heavier and, er, fuzzier than it has ever been.
To the point where you do wonder if they perhaps have taken the whole artful distressing of their material a little far. There are times on Pe’ahi where the distortion almost seems over the top. Sisters sounds like it was recorded whilst the producer was enthusiastically blow-drying their hair and A Hell Below appears to be trying to recapture that special moment you get when your friend drunkly rings you from a gig in the mistaken belief that if you can’t be there, then hearing it through a phone is definitely the next best thing.
Almost. But not quite. Which isn’t easy, there’s huge amounts of skill in the balance they find, in creating these brutal roaring clouds of noise and then contradicting it by positioning something beautiful within. Clean it up a bit and the opening Endless Sleeper could easily be a lost Mercury Rev song. On Sisters the cacophony parts to display these beautiful harp-like sweeps that glisten in the folds, while the chorus of A Hell Below, with Foo and Wagner sweetly exchanging sweet-somethings as the storm of reverb rages on top, is fantastic.
The further you pass through Pe’ahi, the more facets it displays. The moments of stoic broken-heartedness aren’t perhaps that surprising, although the way the that When Night Is Almost Done crackles and spits and slowly traipses towards its conclusion, with Foo cooing “when the love dies / do we die too?” as a delicate melody twinkles away, is gorgeous. But Kill!, verging on industrial in its nihilistic attack, is unexpectedly angry and rather brilliant for it.
The Raveonettes keep doing it. Keep managing to subtly tweak their aesthetic into new and improved shapes. In this case, Pe’ahi may well have arrived softly, but you can’t criticise the size of its stick, nor its ability to do different and interesting things with that stick.