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[Polydor; 2010]

By ; January 8, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Manchester is a city with a lot of cultural baggage. It has produced some of the finest musicians of the last century, such as The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, The Durutti Column, Mr Scruff, The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays. Admittedly, there have also been some mediocre ones – Oasis, Twisted Wheel, The Courteeners and The Whip. Fortunately for us, and for the state of Manchester’s music scene, Delphic fall into the former category. Over the past few months, they’ve had a lot of hype, and it isn’t particularly hard to see why.

After a string of great live performances on the UK festival circuit (Leeds Festival being a particular highlight) and a run of great singles (the Everything Everything remix of “This Momentary” is especially good) it’s clear that they’re more than just two-bit revivalists. Angular opener “Clarion Call,” for example, owes more to Bloc Party than it does New Order, and is all the better for it. Other modern influences pop up all over the place. Parts of the album have definite hints of both old and nu-rave, touches of Friendly Fires-esque dance punk, and the harmonic, ambient shoegaze of The xx. There’s even a bit of the lush dream pop of Bat For Lashes thrown in (particularly prominent on the title track, which is also one of the best on the album). “Halcyon” even has trance undertones, which sounds a lot better than it ought to. Parts of Acolyte are incredibly diverse, and the tracks with wider influences are by far the strongest.

Unfortunately though, this serves the secondary purpose of showing up the weaker tracks for what they are. “Submission,” for example, is a perfectly good single, but seems overly derivative when sandwiched between the standout tracks “Halcyon” and “Counterpoint.” Similarly, “Ephemera” sounds suspiciously like a last minute injection of filler in an album which is otherwise pretty great. And that’s the only real problem here – not necessarily bad tracks, but rather bad sequencing. There are brilliant tunes here, but they’re all towards the middle of the album, so the other tracks feel like they’ve been glued on to the ends hurriedly. If this was reissued with a different ordering, it’d be the best alternative dance record since It’s Blitz!. In its current state, though, it just seems a little sloppy.

That isn’t to say that this isn’t an impressive release. All the gripes to be found here are relatively minor, and this is without a doubt a brilliant debut. While many of the songs obviously owe a lot to bands like New Order and Orbital, they are still a cut above most indie dance crossovers. Here you’ll find all the quality you’d expect from the singles and more. At times it’s joyous, at others frantic, but it is always intensely lovable. Delphic have achieved a high standard here, and on top of that they’re showing heaps of potential. Classy, charming and very listenable – if this is representative of 2010’s releases, this is going to be an exciting year.


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