When Saints Go Machine

Infinity Pool

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When Saints Go Machine earned enough praise for the haunting art pop of their second album, Konkylie, that when it came time to deliver a follow-up, the quartet could have easily rested on their laurels. Fortunately, on Infinity Pool, they continue to challenge themselves and their listeners by streamlining their sound and expanding it in unexpected ways. They do both on the opening track, "Love and Respect," which introduces Infinity Pool's harder-edged, more overtly electronic style and also boasts a cameo by rapper Killer Mike. One of the most striking differences between Konkylie and Infinity Pool is how much more distinctive, yet natural, Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild's vocals sound here. While the comparisons to Antony and Arthur Russell won't be going away anytime soon, Vonsild's singing is more nimble, particularly on "Infinity Killer," where his warm, ever so slightly off-kilter tones are given more depth by his sleek surroundings; likewise, the precise backdrop on "Yard Heads" gives his reading of lyrics like "I'm dead/Dead happy" even more eerie soulfulness. Of course, there are still callbacks to Konkylie here and there on Infinity Pool: the single "Iodine" shows that When Saints Go Machine haven't lost any of the transporting surreality that made their previous album so noteworthy, while "System of Unlimited Love" suggests that there are still strong ties between their music and the indie R&B of the 2010s. Similarly, the band still has a remarkable flair for juxtaposing wildly different sounds and moods and making it seem effortless; from more theatrical cuts like "Mental Shopping Spree" and "Slave to the Take in Your Heaven," where Vonsild's almost androgynous vocals are complemented by keyboards that alternately suggest a church and a spaceship, to downbeat ones such as the strikingly moody "Dead Boy," each of these songs reflects a different facet of the band. These songs also reflect how When Saints Go Machine have expanded and enriched their sound on Infinity Pool even more than Konkylie might have suggested.

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