Setting the bar dangerously high with their Fail Forever E.P. earlier this year, the Danish quartet When Saints Go Machine return with a full-length that seems almost otherworldly in its beauty. Konkylie effortlessly blends the collective influences of the group while destroying any traces of genres that you can neatly point back to, leaving listeners suspended within a wholly original aural experience. Techno can be found here, but it doesn’t look like itself. Experimental electronics are present as well, but it never steps on the toes of the more accessible moments of the album.
The achingly fragile vocals of Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild fall somewhere between Antony and Arthur Russell, wrapped in melancholy and isolation while hinting at complete liberation. “Parix” is the prototype for pop music that never stopped believing in immaculate orchestration, caressed by a seemingly endless wave of shimmering synthesizers and arctic crisp percussion that crunches underneath. “Jets” introduces a polyrhythmic pattern over a steady 4/4 thump and carnival-like keys, Nikolaj’s vocals gently ushering you through an electro-tropical playground.
“Kelly” takes a more direct path to pop perfection, this time nestled safely in New Wave’s skeletal frame. Soon after that, the band gradually moves back to less beat-centered fare and allows their intricate arrangements to whisk people away to parts unknown. “Add Ends” is the closing track to beat this year, a symphony of plucked strings, percolating electronics, and simply stunning harmonies from Nikolaj. More elegant than electro, more art than alternative, there is nothing else out there that sounds quite like Konkylie.