Sacred Bones, are you ever going to make a faux pas? Pop. 1280 are their umpteenth well-placed bet; these four New Yorkers, under the banner of the ouroboros since 2010, sport an unoriginal yet honest mix of noise rock and darkwave that has led them to collect favorable opinions and appreciation from the press and the public alike.
Paradise is their third album and, needless to say, the title is bitterly ironic. The loose concept behind Paradise lies on a dystopic (or with the current state of things in mind, perhaps even realistic) vision of the relationship between man and machine. Not incidentally, it’s also their most electronic work to date.
I will avoid echoing the thoughts of so many of my contemporaries on how technology seems the one and only priority of ‘progress’, while humanity keeps asking for more high-definition, more artificial intelligence, and more ‘connection’. With rough brushes, Pop. 1280 paint a fresco of Hell on Earth, using themes and suggestions that are well-known and yet still strong enough to make a statement (and naming Orwell’s 1984 as an influence would be lapalissian): mega corporations as ruling subjects, State-enforced control pushed to the extreme through the abuse of technology, an anguishing sense of oppression, and a status quo so powerful, it’s impossible to overthrow it. Under this kind of perspective, ‘bullying’ robots into working doesn’t sound like the greatest idea.
‘Pyramids on Mars’ is the icon of the band’s new course: a slow-paced, tangled mix of cold synthesizers, vocals emerging from God-knows-where and bouncing back harshly off metal walls, and loud, chaotic interludes. ‘Humanity has failed’ was the uplifting presentation attached to ‘Pyramids on Mars’ back at the time of its release as a single in December; disenchantment and pessimism are an intangible part of Pop. 1280’s weltanschauung. ‘USS ISS’ takes the will of annihilation to the extreme with a captivating and almost danceable death-rock vibe scratched into its depth by—you guessed it—noise, screams, and more noise.
Some reminiscing of Pop. 1280’s recent past emerges here and there; ‘Chromidia’ is marked since the beginning by new-wave drumming, towered over by recursive tides of noise that eventually become the main element of the song. An eighties-style atmosphere resounds again in ‘Phantom Freighter’, a title that could be well-suited to a videogame or science fiction film from that period, only to be torn apart by ear-piercing, razor-sharp sonic slashes. More than once on Paradise, Pop. 1280 come dangerously close to a sound that is not unlike that of KMFDM; they either quickly learned their lesson or, perhaps more likely, the Sascha Konietzko-led Germans have always been an influence—one that didn’t make a clear appearance in Pop. 1280’s music until now.
Wise was the choice to limit the album to ten tracks. Paradise doesn’t suffer from any form of quality drop-off and remains consistent and tight throughout. Paradise was a great surprise and, as said in the introduction, another shot straight through the heart of their audience by Sacred Bones.
01) Pyramids on Mars
02) Phantom Freighter
03) In silico
05) USS ISS
07) Rain Song
08) The Last Undertaker
09) Kingdom Come