First things first, Collections is not Acolyte redux. Not even remotely. When announcing the follow-up to their exceptional 2010 debut, the band said; “We didn’t want to make an album that replicated ‘Acolyte’, that more-of-the-same-again approach seems all too abundant at the moment and it doesn’t interest us in the slightest, so we set out to challenge ourselves”.
And challenge, they have for Collections is musically very different, with a much greater emphasis on the beat and almost none on the dance-rock sound that brought them to the dance in the first place. Influences come from all over, as if the guys have spent three years listening to every other musical style out there and choosing which ones to use. It’s a bit of a kitchen sink approach, with hip-hop, overblown future rock, dubstep, banghra, 80’s pop, ballads, dance and many more all evident across the 10 tracks.
While this does serve to show the new diversity of Delphic, we don’t think that a confused ‘huh?’ was the reaction they were hoping to illicit from listeners but for the first couple of spins, but that’s exactly where we found ourselves. It doesn’t have the instant accessibility of Acolyte which hit you square between the eyes from the opening moments of “Clarion Call”, and seems to lack cohesion, it doesn’t feel like a single whole like you would expect an album to.
Evidently though, this is by design, as Rick explained to XFM. “Collections is a collection of songs that don’t necessarily sound the same, which challenges listeners to get out of their boxes. It’s why people have shuffle, so they can hear different songs on their playlists”. So it’s an album that is designed to be listened to in a different order each time?
It’s an interesting concept, to deliberately create an album that isn’t designed to be enjoyed as an album, but one that makes some sense given the public’s predilection for disposable music and preference for downloading singles only. It’s like a less technologically advanced version of Gwilym Gold’s Bronze format which promised listeners they would never hear the same version of a song twice.
So, we decided to give it a spin or two on shuffle and the result was interesting. The lack of cohesion, of a singularity across the music, no longer mattered. We didn’t know what was up next so that randomness, the variety of styles felt fresh rather than confusing. We were able to enjoy the tunes for what they were not for what they didn’t do. “Bayia” felt sexy and energetic; “The Sun Also Rises” like Yeasayer had penned music for a rousing BBC montage; “Tears Before Bedtime”, featuring heartache via voicemail, feels more poignant when it precedes rather than follows “Atlas”, which itself is a multi-headed hydra spitting musical styles like fireballs.
We’d have to say, shuffle is the way forward for Collections, though we are honestly not sure if that is a good thing or not.