Delorean - RVW
Something has happened to Delorean. When last we left them they were busy conjuring all kinds of giddiness with their brand of Basque bangers, epitomised by the blissed out ‘Deli’ from 2009’s Aryton Senna EP, and the euphoric and enormous ‘Stay Close’ from Subiza. With their latest album Apar though, they’ve turned to - if not an overtly melancholy approach - certainly a more restrained one.
In many ways it fits. Recorded amidst a tide of tumult in their native Spain, the summer nights presumably don’t feel so joyous and long. They’ve spoken of “leaving behind the ornate and layered” aspects of their previous work and focusing on “big-production”, and their press releases and album artwork emphasise a sense of unity through adversity - whether emotionally or economically - which informs the album throughout.
‘Destitute Time’ for instance, fuses lyrics about “losing ground”, the realisation of “now when it's all gone”, and yet is framed within the bounds of a lush, well-hewn modern pop song. ‘Dominion’ similarly provides some sense of a romantic future against an impending and harsh reality by appropriating Dylan Thomas: “I couldn't be more sure of what I'm waiting for / For your eyes prove / that death shall have no dominion”. The main issue with Apar though, and a particular disappointment when this context has been so emphasised, is that the area where it’s most registered is in the relative impoverishment of identity and diversity in the music. There’s a lack of depth and ambition here despite the constant sense of grandiose atmosphere and occasion that heralds each song.
Song-lengths are notably shorter than previously, yet this concise approach has not focused the song-writing accordingly, and the consequence is that the expansive outcrops of glorious effervescence that elevated Subiza are cut down, forced into tighter boxes. ‘Keep Up’ for instance sounds enormous, and will no doubt translate particularly well live, but it never really leads anywhere after 3-and-a-half-minutes, and so instead crashes out into the 80s infused synth-pop balladry of ‘Walk High’, which like its predecessor spreads out but never really develops. Similarly, tracks have a tendency to blur together, as even when they promise something distinctive – the saxophone on ‘You Know It’s Right’, the throb and tribal drums that open ‘Your Face’, or the synthesized harps of ‘Inspire’ – the novelty peters out without real development, and falls back into the same limited vocal melodies, and almost stock patterns of keys and drum machines.
The hunks of modern Balearic-infused synth-pop Delorean offer up are intensely enjoyable, at the very least on a superficial level, but their impact is lessened over the course of an album that fails to expand its palate in any particularly distinctive ways. After Subiza the hope was that Delorean would be invigorated and liberated by that record’s accompanying acclaim to experiment more, perhaps pick up on some of the avenues explored by their fine remixing work. Unfortunately - and in the process massively over-simplifying the music scene of Northern Spain - Apar is more Crystal Fighters than John Talabot, homogeneously stagnant and instantly familiar rather than heterogeneously expansive and exhilarating.