PVT PVTChurch With No Magic
Australians Pivot have changed their name and now they’re known as PVT, with capital letters and no vowels, accompanied by a brighter and more mystical appearance, in line with their music, which is great to do shrooms to. And I say: what does it matter? PVT are still the three sonic astronauts they were two years ago, when the world got to know their music thanks to “O Soundtrack My Heart” which brought them global exposure via Warp and which located them in an army of weird bands that deformed avant-garde rock even more than it already had been ever since someone (was it Simon Reynolds?) invented the term “post-rock”. Warp did well by signing them, for now they could keep the label’s outsiders band, Tyondai Braxton’s Battles company (these days Battles, incidentally, are operating without Tyondai, who’s pursuing a solo career as a Frank Zappaesque contemporary composer). And Pivot (sorry, PVT)? They are still stationed on their own (dark side of the) moon, aspiring to be today’s Pink Floyd, if the competition lets them –said competition being fellow Australians by the name of Midnight Juggernauts– although with more complicated production more in the vein of Animal Collective, if you allow us the comparison, which helps keep them under wraps, or so it seems.
But no matter how much they try to disguise things, the contents of “Church With No Magic” is more than clear: it’s prog-rock disguised as math-rock, or math-rock with symphonic rock features submerged in chaos, but the kind of sonic puzzle of which it is known for certain that looks for a kind of immensity that moves away from the human scale. Right from the start of the album, on “Community”, which sounds like a synthesiser handled by Vangelis with a Gregorian choir in the background –is there an Enigma revival going on and nobody told me about? – it’s obvious where PVT want to go: up. And their ascent must be like the prophet Elijah, on a chariot of fire spreading a blinding light. One shouldn’t be deceived by some manoeuvres made as the album plays on, such as that Alan Vega-like voice and a few synths manhandled a la Martin Rev on “Church With No Magic”: not even the direct reference to Suicide will mask the sharp and chilling voice towards the end, nor the synthesiser pyrotechnics with a golden shine which cancel any kind of punk influence, in order to return to where we were: in the progressive 70’s.
Because of that I’m giving the record a 7.3. It deserves a generous review, which isn’t overly enthusiastic either – the album isn’t original, nor is it sweet, but it’s the result of a monstruous effort, and truly has a few moment of great courage and sonic audacity that we can only respect. And because it would also be a period the boys of PVT would have loved to have experienced firsthand: they’ve dedicated themselves to studying the era thoroughly, a time when none of them even existed yet, and to absorbing what most interested them of those years. The geek part of the recording processes, the connection between synthesisers and experimental rock (also the German kind, like the very Can-like “Crimson Swan”, but always very English sounding, like on the very King Crimson-like “Waves & Radiation”), and to taking it back to their own time, where they have added forest percussion a la Animal Collective, as we said before ( “Window”), and the chaotic instrumentation - the tangle of which they want to get us out of by approaching an almost pop-like formula ( “The Quick Mile”). Records like this can cause indigestion if you’re not in the mood from the start, or if you’re not particularly fan of this sort of retro-psychedelica for highly gifted indies (or indies who pretend to be music erudites operating on the outskirts of what consumer patterns dictate). PVT’s successes may be because of the beautiful ambient phases that they sometimes introduce and the voices that shoot to infinity, and it’s easier to listen to than you would theoretically expect. But, just in case, keep the bottle of fruit salts ( Eno, of course) near. Tom Madsen