Starting with the rich guitar shimmer of "Lowlands," caught somewhere between stately instrumental prog rock and post-shoegaze drone, Hearts No Static are in ways a classically pre-21st century band -- where so many contemporary acts allow for the use of overt computer and electronic elements, the Swedish trio emphasizes a sense of live and acoustic performance. The highlighted instrument credit list says as much -- vibraphone and pump organ are mentioned alongside expected guitar credits -- and the resultant sense of familiarity in the tension between calmer melodies, steady echo-shrouded rhythms, and fried feedback edges would be happily understood by a Pink Floyd fan in 1972 as much as a Mogwai or Secret Machines fan of the current day. But as a result, Motif almost feels too familiar, something that is dedicated to recapturing a certain style that perhaps was never quite a cohesive one to start with, yet in a way that feels too much like earnest recreation instead of advancing a way forward, taking it to a new place. Combined with a general sonic resemblance from track to track, it means songs like "Happy Holidays" and "Strait of Malacca," though individually enjoyable enough, feel part of a larger, undifferentiated blur. Some variety in the approach allows for unexpected moments to emerge, like the easygoing, almost late-night-in-the-jazz-bar feel of "Elitism," a taut rhythm letting the piano find a quiet melody on top of the pace, or the heavy bass throb that underpins "Fashion Death." But Motif sticks to its titular claim almost to a fault, an exploration of a sound that retraces itself.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett