(Skip this review if you like, just give track 7 “A simple beautiful truth” a two minute shot before you leave this page or I will spam you to death *smiley*).
This fourth time around, Hayden-Little et al.bring us yet another elegant canvas of frozen abstract emotions and a painfully close inspection of the sensitive macho psyche. The Beasts have crafted themselves a uniquely restrained sonic palette, so much so they could release instrumental songs under a different name and one could still identify them. I think the secret ingredient to their formula is leaving enough of that negative space in between notes to complete the narration, which works wonders towards building this disarmingly charming slick sound. It feels like a silky reptile crawling up my ears, never to leave.
Exactly! Present Tense is an album which, much like Poe’s raven, will come in through your window at night and nest inside your head, your ears, your chest, your gut, hell, even your own WILD BEAST! Caution, though. The sound is a sweet siren’s call, luring you towards your destruction, paving the way with beautiful origami flowers and the scent of incense, with all earthly pleasures, just so the music can eat your heart and mind from the inside out. What infinite beauty, and how infinite the sadness of this beauty.
To start things off, we find the monolithic drum pattern of ‘Wanderlust’, a tensely ominous, giant song that feels like it belongs in the end credits of a Lars Von Trier film made in 2019, where the old ¾ rhythm is pushed to and beyond its limits and deprived of its usually pleasant nature, a menacing synthesized chorus of semi human voices lay a bed for Thorpe’s falsettoed concerns about life and shit. The relentless,repetitive grid adds to a general sense of anxiety. This song however, is a throw-off, as our gentlemen swiftly shift back into Beast mode on track 2 ‘Nature boy’, an arresting display of architectural craft, where their signature “essential sounds only” policy keeps paying off real well for them. There is no embellishment, every sound in this landscape is specifically designed to help the storytelling.
I love what Wild Beasts have done to redecorate their interior. There’s a little more synth, but the band doesn’t give up its personality to accommodate this outstanding element. The imagery is profound, as Little and Hayden exchange abstract one liners that trigger the mind towards unimaginably beautiful places: “all the lovers they loved before us and breathed in this ether”, or bluntly steps into taboo with charming sincerity: “don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck / in your Mother tongue what’s the verb to suck?”
Immediate songs like ‘Sweet spot’ will grab you by the ears and keep you coming back with their sweet hooks, but it’s the timeless, arresting atmosphere of more elevated moments like ‘Present Perfect’ that sneaks up on you, with its army of ethereal vibes, rising like a sculpture made of smoke, only there long enough for you to see it, but always leaving you unable to capture the fleeting emotion it produces.
Most of all, Present Tense is evidence that there are still a few great bands out there which are capable of more than one great album. They’ve found their sound, yes, but they’re still looking for every way they can bend it. And they don’t seem bothered by notions such as hit singles or whatever, which allows for their creativity to flow in a very organic, alas desperately beautiful manner.
Words: Air Nest Vera