When Saints Go Machine, Infinity Pool

Jason Randall Smith

When Saints Go Machine, Infinity Pool [!K7]

When Saints Go Machine have spent the past two releases saving pop music from itself, breathing excitable moments of experimentation into its formula while never keeping it out of reach from the listeners who would love it most. Even at their most daring, they have remained accessible and their previous album Konkylie was certainly proof of that. As easy as it would have been for them to continue this trend for another release, Infinity Pool signals a turn towards uncharted waters for the group, one that pushes their saintly persona to the background in order to embrace the machine-driven aspects of their music.

All evidence of this is immediate the moment that “Love And Respect” kicks through the speakers with neck-breaking drum patterns and abrasive electronic chords. The vocals of Nikolaj Manuel Vonslid still sound as delicate as ever, representing grace and mercy on a backing track that suggests that there's no room for either one. The appearance of Killer Mike may seem like an unorthodox choice, but he makes himself right at home, completely owning the last few moments of the song as he slings intricate rhymes while shouting out his contemporaries.

Other album selections confirm the lean toward more aggressive song structures. The consistent whirring and ice cold drum pads that underpin “Iodine” hold harsh synthesized lines in place while Vonslid's harmonies provide a healing balm. “System of Unlimited Love” is a sonic tug-of-war between dark and light elements as shimmering harpsichord patches dance around intricate clicks and distorted kicks. It is only towards the end of the song that calm is restored with a sequence of pinball chimes and occasional electronic pulses. “Mental Shopping Spree” is introduced via a tiny rhythm box and warm chords before succumbing to the crunch of forceful beats and twisted melodies. Not even Nikolaj's dulcet tones are able to escape the effects as an aural alter ego appears underneath his own voice with contorted crooning.

It may be a more stark journey than their previous effort, but the need for heavily orchestrated moments still pop up from time to time, as proven by the epic and triumphant fantasy opus that is “Mannequin” or the continual shift in dynamics and staccato synth riffs of “Order.” Infinity Pool isn’t exactly a move forward, but more of a step sideways, the kind that can shake off those that thought they had the sound of When Saints Go Machine pegged. The beauty is still present, but they’re not afraid to bear their fangs when necessary, which can only mean that they’re getting stronger and bolder as a unit. That has to be a good thing.

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