The Presets - Beams
Wed 28th Sep, 2005 in Music Reviews
Outfit chosen. Make up applied. Essentials packed. Ready to go.
If you are looking for some great party music to accompany your weekend, then get your hands on a copy of The Presets debut album, Beams. This highly anticipated release confirms that Kim Moyes and Julian Hamilton are two of the most interesting purveyors of electronic music to come out of Australia in a long while.
Following on from 2003’s Blow Up EP, The Presets have been busy on the road carving a name for themselves in a music scene which has been undergoing a rock revival. Their answer? Take those dirty, abrasive elements of rock… and make fun music to dance to. And if electro is your thing, Beams can easily become the soundtrack to your weekend.
You may need to peel back some layers though to suit your night. Beams is a varied array of blissful, sonic adventures, as well as crunching electro stompers and bedroom experimentation. Steamworks kicks off the album, and in the first few bars, there’s a tinge of Michael Jackson in his Thriller days. Nestling into this time period, the band continue to re-dress their eighties influences of left field, indie pop bands such as New Order, Depeche Mode and the like. Not only in their music, but also in their design. The cover art is quite frankly strange. The duo are wearing masks and are positioned around objects such as a bonsai tree, candlesticks and statues. The inside booklet contains photographs of similar displaced objects like an elephant and a flower. I’m sure there are plenty of theories on this choice of imagery, but I will leave that for you to ponder when you buy the album. My simple comment is that this dramatic staging and mucking around reflects their obvious notions of having fun.
And have fun we will. Down, Down Down is definitely a party track with the beats escalating accordingly, and plenty of layered electro-pop synth effects. A thundering bassline in Are You The One? is also a dancefloor number and apparently the next single to be released. For those who like it hard, Girl (You Chew My Mind Up) is a fast, techy onslaught complete with spitting vocals and intense overlapping bleeps to link to the agitated song title. Taking a jungle edge, I Go Hard, I Go Home transports me to an outdoor festival with starry skies. And if that’s not enough booty shaking for you, tune your ears to Kitty In The Middle for a dirty, sexy electro romp complete with arse whipping drum machine snares.
Somewhere in the middle of the album, we enter The Presets galaxy. This is a shout out to the bedroom producers, and my flatmates late night computer intentions ring loud and clear. Black Background is a minute and a half of experimentation, whilst Worms reminds us that the band are essentially sounds artists as well as makers of glam disco punk. Alternating dark, and twisted synth patterns with fine, classical piano scales, their skewed precision is evident.
The title track and last on the album, is also worth mentioning as it features Daniel Johns on acoustic guitar. Other typically non-techy instruments such as strings and horns appear as well. The track is quiet, reflective and well suited for a soundtrack of some sorts.
For me, the finest work on this album is not new. Girl By The Sea was the title of The Presets second EP which was released in November 2004. With it’s blissful, dreamy nature, it is well deserving of being on the debut album as well. Hamilton comments that this is a “song for the sheilas” and perhaps this is why I like it. Or maybe it’s just a beautifully constructed song capable of taking the listener to another place.
The Presets have certainly moved on from their more ambient Prop days, developing a sound which is distinctly their own. Beams has an enjoyable Euro camp feel to it, where the real activity happens when the sun goes down. This album is dark and dirty, yet pristine and emotional at the same time. A highly commendable release.