Wild Beasts have been on something of an evolutionary arc with each album showcasing their willingness to dig deep into creative corners and musically chance their hearts and heads. Present Tense continues that trend, taking them further into the world of lush electronica.
They’ve always been a band built on the tremendous voices of Haydn Thorpe and Tom Fleming, a strength they readily accept and thankfully exploit, and on Present Tense they’ve allowed more space and complementary sounds to support Thorpe’s sweet falsetto and Flemings earthier, emotive howl. The music now leans more heavily on synthetic and analog sounds – synths and drum machines – yet they’ve mastered the mercurial balancing act of retaining the warmth and emotional connection that is often missing in electronic and avant-garde pop. Daughters dials up drama like a subtler Depeche Mode, harnessing tension and some abrasive sonics to create an absorbing dynamic within a fairly standard song structure. Sweet Spot is just as engaging but it rides on Thorpe’s hooky chorus melody while New Life is Fleming’s strongest vocal performance to date.
Present Tense is an album that sounds and feels intimate. The band feels close to the speakers and the result is an immersive experience that relies on space and simplicity, where less is more. It’s the perfect title for the album as it’s utterly contemporary and retains the tension that always sits just below the surface of their music. This is the most measured and confident release from Wild Beasts, an absorbing hymn to modern life.
by Chris Familton
*this review was first published in The Music