At the time of writing, it’s hard to ascertain whether synthesizers are ‘in’ or not. The hideously termed ‘Nu-Rave’ always hummed more of a lumpen marketing campaign than a cohesive musical niche, often slapped onto any band who dared use a keyboard. Whilst this might have cheapened the use of keyboards for some, It would be completely out of line to try and slap this tag on the far deeper Delphic, whose combination of trance’s ethereal synthesizers and the taut, angular anxiety of Bloc Party far exceeds the flimsy trend that preceded them.
If this is all sounding a little bit Tiesto-forms-a-band to you, don’t worry, the integration of Delphic’s obvious dance influences and indie sensibilities is far more organic, adding weight to the multitude of unavoidable comparisons to ‘Madchester’ era bands. The influence is indeed doubtless, the album laden with undeniable glimmers of longing for the Hedonism of the Happy Monday’s or the progression of Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner. Although always present, this is exemplified in the fantastic This Momentary, where twinkling guitars, shimmering synths and airy, Good-Books-esque vocals gradually descend into a frantic, pounding, Madchester style samba cacophony so completely New Order that you might find yourself expecting (see: Hoping) John Barnes makes an appearance.
As tempting as they are, a review littered with Madchester comparisons would be unfair. Delphic should be praised for creating a sound that is simultaneously progressive and nostalgic. Opener Clarion Call is a fitting introduction to Delphic’s album, awash with thick synths, wailing guitars and taut, rattling drums, although it perhaps lacks the conviction that it’s name suggests. This confidence is also lacking somewhat in many of James Cook’s vocals – often of a gratingly faint, strained timbre. Musically, however, the band exhibit poise and assurance that most bands take far longer to develop.
Acolyte is evidence of a band that know exactly what a track requires, whose deft, subtle sonic touches are so appropriately scattered and positioned that their tracks become immaculately crafted works of technical depth. There are undeniably some lower quality tracks however; Ephemera is an example of the fine line between sonic experimentation and pretension, though the sheer atmosphere and vast space of this two minute interlude just about carries it off, whilst the piano-led album closer Remain is a disappointing exercise in tepidity, it’s anxiety feeling distinctly artificial.
These weaker moments are fairly insignificant in the face of some of Delphic’s more brilliant moments. Single Counterpoint is an escape into warm euphoria as rolling drums drive forward fluttering synthesizer lines under some of singer James Cook’s less breathy vocals. Even Halcyon, a song initially underwhelming, accelerates into a raucous jam, complete with whirring guitar solo and radio-friendly sing-along, guaranteed to trouble at least a few festival crowds.
An album of sublime electronics – from the arcade machine shimmy of Submission to the gorgeously vaporous trance of Red Lights , Acolyte is a truly immersive album of energetic nostalgia. Already tipped by critics and cool-kids everywhere and destined to become a firm favourite of fans of their former label Kitsune-Maison or the likes of Friendly Fires, 2010 has the potential to be a very good year for Delphic’s brand of euphoric, intricate indie-trance.
Acolyte is released on 11/1/10 on Chimeric/Polydor.