Owen Pallett has been making his presence known with subtle web promotion for his latest and most ambitious work to date. Pallett is set to release his fourth solo album, “In Conflict,” via Domino Records and Secret City Records on May 12.
Pallett, who went under the moniker of “Final Fantasy” until four years ago, is well known throughout the indie community for his string arrangements and appearances on a vast array of tracks, including the score to Spike Jonze’s 2013 “Her.” He has been working closely with many groups and musicians ranging from Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire and Jim Guthrie since the beginning of his career in 2002, and has done recent pieces for Linkin Park, Taylor Swift and R.E.M.
Last week Pallett had two essays published on Slate. The essays were critiques of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” where he qualifies the songs’ genius through analysis of each composition’s theory. The essays spawned as a response to Ted Gioia’s piece for The Daily Beast, “Music Criticism Has Degenerated Into Lifestyle Reporting.”
Pallett uses the opportunity to express his opinions on the songs as a clever promotional tactic to demonstrate his near-literary comprehension of classical music theory and his savvy awareness of pop culture. In the essays, he reviews everything from chord progression and rhythmic syncopation to delivering vocals on off beats and making simple loops in GarageBand, all the while making handfuls of references. Pallett mentions Radiohead, Black Sabbath and Paul McCartney but what’s interesting is his mention of Coldplay. Coldplay’s last two albums were produced by Brian Eno, who lends synth, guitar and vocal contributions.
Eno has been recording, performing and producing music since the early 1970s, when he started his career with art and glam rock outfit “Roxy Music.” From there he diverged into more ambient music, a genre and term he helped pioneer, where he created “Ambient 1: Music for Airports,” perhaps his flagship composition.
Most of Eno’s works range from avant-garde and ambient to experimental electronic and minimalist. The prevalence of his minimalist influence is heavily articulated in his recent mentorship of Icelandic composer Ben Frost and, in a less apparent manner, in his “stripped-down” production on Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto.” Eno has produced scores of music for Talking Heads, U2, David Bowie and most recently James Blake’s “Overgrown.”
All of these examples show a common theme of Eno crossing musical and cultural boundaries, and Pallett is bridging similar gaps. His career started out working alongside the bands who helped shape what indie means today in the broadest sense, and has progressed to him challenging the zeitgeist he helped create in his latest album’s promotion.
Pallett first posted a trailer to the new album on Feb. 6. The excerpt starts on a very positive note with rapid synth arpeggios and sonorous howling before slowly transforming into a solemn prognostication. With pseudo-hymnal chanting layered over technical drumming, it’s almost analogous of his progression as a musician.
Continuing with the metaphor, a music video for “The Riverbed” was released a few weeks later which tells the story of an aging man. The man credited as Jim is seen meditating and preparing himself for a date to music that sounds like the aforementioned Ben Frost composing for Arcade Fire — repetitious, visceral and deep. As the date goes on, Jim seems eager to impress the woman. After dinner, for which she insisted upon paying, they go to a lookout over the Los Angeles skyline to share a kiss. As they walk back to the car they are confronted by three young men and share an aggressive exchange before finally leaving. Jim is clearly upset at the outcome of things as he sits in the passenger seat as his date drives him to his subway station.
Once Jim is home, you witness him working out and getting pumped as the music hits its crescendo. He jogs all the way to the look out as the sun rises. Once he returns to the scene of last nights altercation, he can still see the men. He takes a moment before running toward them full speed.
The video and song cut.
Let’s hope “In Conflict” runs straight into the fight and doesn’t pull any punches. Owen Pallett’s “In Conflict” is out on vinyl and CD on May 12.
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