Thursday, September 12, 2013
You saw the graffiti circle grids if you lived in a major city. Then came the appearance of a preview video, and the announcement of something happening on 9/9 at 9 PM. Then finally official confirmation as to what was going on and that it was indeed Arcade Fire behind it. Leaked cover art followed, soon by leaked tracks. Then not one, but two videos were released to coincide with the new song. One a mildly trippy interactive affair in the vein of what the band had done on their last album, the other one a deeply surreal rabbit hole constructed by Anton Corbijn.
If there's one thing that be gleamed from all this crazy promotion, it's that Arcade Fire intend to do something different with Reflektor. And after finally hearing the title track, one realizes how true this is. The song is a beast, a seven minute plus jam by the band diving head first in dance beats and disco sheen, and the results are startling. People have been quick to make "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" comparisons, due to that track's heavy synth presence and shift in style for the band. However, it's not a very apt. comparison; "Sprawl II" worked because it still had the same direct grandness that Arcade Fire had always placed within their songs.
"Reflektor" on the other hand is built on various peaks and valleys, letting the band stretch their legs and truly work with the new beats and synths that flutter through the song, along with Jame Murphy's production. And thanks to that time, "Reflektor" is manages to be something stunning instead of the potential mess it could have been (or sounds like on the first listen). The slow build up lets the foundation to be set, with Win Butler & Régine Chassagne trading off dark verses of falsehood and impermanence (the disillusioned themes that were present on The Suburbs have not left the band yet). And the tension mounts in the song, the band unleashing sweeping sections when their new bright, shinny world comes crumbling down. Butler's cries of "It's just a reflection/Of a reflection/Of a reflection/Of a reflection!" midway through the song feel almost angry as tries to make sense of what's spiraling around him. By the time David Bowie's booming voice comes during the song's end, it serves as the final mark that things will not turn back for the better. "Reflektor" could not serve as more direct or proper mission statement for Arcade Fire's next step. It will be more than interesting what the end result will be with the album, but the band is marching there with pure confidence and some sick beats behind them.
Arcade Fire's Website
Pre-order Reflektor here, from Merge Records