The second studio album to be released under his own name, Owen Pallett's In Conflict, despite its antagonistic title, sounds like the culmination of all of his previous guises (Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire string arranger, Oscar-nominated co-writer of the score to 2013's Her), and while it may peer into the abyss (at least thematically), it's as cathartic and engaging a collection of songs as he's committed himself to thus far. Recorded in Montreal by engineer and producer Mark Lawson, In Conflict's 13 tracks exist, sonically, somewhere in between the sugary opulence of Kishi Bashi and Jónsi and the chilly refinement of Homogenic-era Björk, with the latter providing the most noticeable trail of crumbs, due in large part to the tasteful use of the Czech FILMharmonic Orchestra and the steady presence of Brian Eno, who lends his considerable chops on synth and guitar (he also sings on much of the album) to the production. Pallett's signature blend of classical-minded chamber rock and fractured ambient-electro-pop has never sounded so accessible as it does on cuts like the sumptuous opener "I Am Not Afraid," the appropriately loose and rambling "On a Path," and the icy, Kraftwerk-meets-Ultravox pulse of "Song for Five & Six." Even at its most wounded and immediate, the cavernous "Riverbed" and the spooky yet oddly comforting "Passions," there is a rich vein of humanity that remains tapped into, and that audio IV serves as In Conflict's foundation, shoring up its creator's notion that the "record is meant to approach "insanity" in a positive way." It's an idea that's best summed up by a line at the end of the galvanizing closer "Soldiers Rock": "Pick up the bayonet and run it through the stomach of your brother/Pick up your bloody arm and put it round the shoulder of your lover."
In Conflict Review
by James Christopher Monger