Northern Transmissions' review of 'New Material' by Preoccupations

Flemish Eye/Jagjaguwar



New Material

As they’ve evolved in both sound and name Preoccupations have very noticeably matured as musicians and people. Tackling their inner demons like never before on New Material, the band creates intense moods along with rhythms that not only make these tones accessible but understandable. While it may feel monotonous for some at times, that really seems to be the point of what the band is trying to say on this album.

The frantic drums coarse through this album, driving the songs with powerful rhythms like the intensity of “Espionage.” By the time the harmonies start to amp up the energy even more, it takes their call-and-response to really make it hit hard enough. A constantly increasing swirl of energy, the song never lets up from start to finish. While the tones of “Decompose” are inherently primitive and simplistic, the way Preoccupations slowly build them into a dynamic song is exhilarating to hear. Each burning bridge is a shocking and awe-inspiring shift from the last and continuously adds to their wall of sounds. This said the song does feel a little strapped at times for a real tonal switch to keep the song from feeling like it’s just running the same part over and over again.

“Disarray” rings out with a neon glow of guitars and distant drums that give a sense of detachment to its vocals. Though its effects can at times overpower the actual melody of the song, the emotional heft that Preoccupations can bring in this conversation with their effects is surprisingly powerful. A slow-burn takes over on “Manipulation” as the band’s rush of instrumentation can finally be heard in its separate parts. Waves of feedback smother the listener throughout the song, but it’s their overbearing tones of discontent that really make the song powerful.

The boom of “Antidote” finally seems to push back against the overall melancholy of the album, as Preoccupations create a mesmerizing mix of atmosphere and intoxicating rhythms. Swirling vocal hooks match the shimmering synths and play with the more aggressive and confrontational delivery that so much of the song hits with. Though the song meditates endlessly on each of its main hooks, there’s something fascinating in the way they slowly evolve each of the sounds. Things brighten up again on “Solace” as the band really seem to find just that in their lives. The excited burn of each guitar line match the energy of the vocals while the lyrics tell a much more haunting and pessimistic story. As Preoccupations seem to break their monotony as well, they craft something inspiring but poignant in their warmth.

“Doubt” fills the record with a kind of electronic despair, as the synthetic quality of the drums and synths suggest a dystopian sense of dread. However hopeless the track feels, Preoccupations pop-infused vocal hooks really create an religious-like mantra that gives the track a depth that it wholly needs. Through the brooding keyboards and intense distortion of “Compliance” the band create both the tone to create compliance and the sadness that comes from it. While it flows a little long as a simple mood-piece, the track hits the mark for its heavy interpretation of depression and anxiety.

Words by Owen Maxwell