Delphic - Acolyte
Simon Jay Catling 14/01/2010
Delphic are already onto a winner. They've written 'Counterpoint': a song so ubiquitous, it's appeared on the latest Pro Evolution Soccer and single-handedly propelled the Manchester trio into the top five of 'Auntie's' Sound of 2010 list. It's reasonable prediction then that, before the snow has even melted around our feet, it'll be the anthem of the summer festival season- this year's 'Jump In The Pool' or 'Golden Skans'. It's a fine pop song, pushing the correct buttons for wasted-people-in-a-large space type situations that have abounded since their Hacienda-dwelling predecessors of more than twenty years ago (we'll get this out the way early too: Delphic's forward-thinking claims are, nonetheless, still based on foundations of much of what made part of Manchester's music culture so popular for a while. 'Counterpoint's' intro even features the near-identical bird whistle sample found in 808 State's 'Pacific State'). Their future, for the next year at least, is assured.
A couple of problems, though. The first being that whilst having a field full of revellers singing your song on a hazy summer evening brings a thrill barely imaginable to myself; the likelihood of its parent album being remembered in the same light is slim. I just had to Google the name of The Automatic's 2006 'Monster'-spawning LP (Not Accepted Anywhere, by the way), whilst the Klaxons' debut is often now held up as the Emperors New Clothes' cliché that it already secretly was. Is Acolyte good enough for Delphic to avoid being "that band who released 'Counterpoint'"?
The second problem is the Sound of 2010 list. The BBC are now so desperate not to be wrong footed regarding the musical success stories of the future that their annual tips are becoming increasingly scattershot. Often acts are far from fully formed (The Drums' 'Let's Go Surfing' far supersedes the rest of Summertime EP) or, in some cases, yet to even release anything (where did Hurts come from exactly?) With a debut album out, Delphic are further along than most; but this makes you wonder if it's all been a bit rushed. The answer to these two queries are "in parts" and "certainly not".
Let's deal with the latter first. Acolyte is pristine in both its pacing and production, in fact it's structured almost perfectly: A soaring prologue breaks into an adrenaline rush of back-to-back floor fillers- all hi-hat/snare machine-tinged beats and pulsating tempo. It then falls away into woozy textures and foggy boundaries, only to accelerate into the home straight (hi again 'Counterpoint') to set itself up for the obligatory come down of 'Remain'. And it's all done with such crystalline clarity. Even on the sky reaching eight minute long title-track, the mesh of atmospherics and hazy shapes don't hide the percussion's dominance, whilst the vocals and samples sit side by side, fighting off temptation to fall into heavy embrace. The 'Major Record Label' treatment? Probably. It's a pro rather than a con here though: the worst resuscitated electro-pop can sound is trashy; Acolyte is anything but.
Where things do come a cropper is in trying to deduct what has actually frothed the mouths of tastemakers all and sundry. It's pleasant to have a mainstream-bound group from Manchester sans the arrogance and swagger of many of their predecessors. In their sound, however, lies little to distance themselves from obvious comparisons to the likes of New Order and Friendly Fires; and didn't The Whip get pilloried for trying to bring this sort of thing up to date only a couple of years ago? Some of Acolyte is certainly similar to their Mancunian brethren, just with the rough edges hewn off. At times it suffers due to this- 'Submission' is wet and vacuous instead of the bold opus it's trying to be; and 'Red Lights' stretches on too long and loses its immediacy as a result. However occasionally Delphic are nothing short of a delight: 'Doubt' is a line of string held tense, before unravelling freely into a swaying breeze of a chorus; 'Remain', meanwhile, creeps up to its crescendo so gradually as to catch you by surprise: every synthesiser and Casio keyboard previously featured gathering right under your nose.
This all suggests that Acolyte is a promising debut from a fledgling band. Guess what: it is. But now the rushing about begins; you can already hear 'Doubt' playing across Sports Personality of the Year montages; the album itself will have (and indeed already has) been plugged, by their backers, as "the decade's first great album". It's the sort of pressure that might turn a band into, well, the Klaxons. Until that happens though, I'll see you down the front for 'Counterpoint', yeah?