New Spirit

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From their name to the wildly different sounds they've explored over their nearly two-decade career, PVT is all about surprising shifts. They delivered one of their most radical changes with 2013's Homosapien, a surprisingly poppy set of songs that put Richard Pike's voice front and center and drew comparisons to everyone from Gang of Four to INXS. On New Spirit, PVT swings away from that pop peak -- but not entirely. Instead, they subvert the structures and hooks of their previous album, and the metallic percussion and insistent arpeggiated synths that provide New Spirit's core feel like tangible expressions of the way the band bends and breaks the boundaries between pop and experimental music. Nowhere is this clearer than on the album's centerpiece: Full of seething synths and Pike's mournfully robotic vocals, "Morning Mist Rock Island Bend" is a taut, nine-minute excursion that echoes Fever Ray and early-'80s Peter Gabriel. Since PVT spent years as a contemplative post-rock band, it's not surprising that New Spirit's instrumentals are just as compelling as the songs with vocals; "Spirit of the Plains" suggests wide swathes of land with galloping arpeggios. However, the band continues the more emotional, accessible feel of Homosapien on highlights such as "A Feeling You Can Find," "Salt Lake Heart," and "Fake Sun in China," all of which fizz with barely suppressed energy. New Spirit's shifts from experimental to pop and back again aren't always smooth, but they prove once again that PVT's unpredictability is reliably fascinating.

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