The Danish synthpop group deconstructs their sound. Well, maybe “destroy” is the more appropriate verb here.
K7 Records, 2013
3.8 / 10
Is an album only as good as its weakest track? Or is it as good as the heights of its very best song? Is an album a good one when the ratio of good stuff to bad stuff is positive? I ask this because Danish synthpop group When Saints Go Machine have released a strange album with Infinity Pool. The group’s third album is a mix of good, solid electronic pop and completely abysmal bullshit. If we’re rating this album on its peaks, there are a number of good moments here warranting a decent-to-high score, but if we’re talking about its troughs, well, things get pretty freakin’ dire on this record.
When Saints Go Machine have changed up their sound since their sophomore release Konkylie, and instead of further embracing their synth-pop hooks, they’ve retreated into a vacuum. The songs on Infinity Pool are spacious, and spacious in a bad way. Almost every song has some stretch of time where lead vocalist Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild’s warbling voice is accompanied by a slight, airy synthesizer. Instead of atmospheric, these songs come across as empty, as if there’s something really missing here. This band is a quartet – what are the other three guys doing? Just standing there, with their arms crossed, while Vonsild’s voice quivers and shakes into open space? When the band is fully engaged, there’s good results: the last-minute of “Mannequin” is fantastic, about half of “Order” is pretty good, the majority of “Iodine” works as a sweeping rump-shaker. The problem is, on every song, the music comes to a complete standstill so that Vonsild can deliver some flaccid, weak lines by himself.
The most annoying thing about Infinity Pool is how inconsistent it is. If this album was bad, that would be fine, but instead, there are several moments of interesting melodies or dance-worthy grooves that punctuate some pretty boring, spacious music. In fact, the only consistently enjoyable song on Infinity Pool is the opening track “Love and Respect (feat. Killer Mike)”. The collaborative track is a strange pairing to be sure, but Killer Mike’s raps inject a certain level of energy to the album that is missing otherwise. After this first song, the album just kind of meanders around with no sense of cohesion whatsoever. And Infinity Pool isn’t an album that gets better with repeated listens — closer looks at the music give the impression that there’s no underlying, guiding logic to the music or arrangement here. I do appreciate that When Saints Go Machine are trying something different here; it would have been easy and profitable to repeat the same formula of Konkylie. When Daft Punk deconstructed their sound on the recent Random Access Memories, they were left with a set of funky, organic, stripped-down dance hits. When When Saints Go Machine deconstruct their sound, there’s nothing there but half-hearted emptiness.
“Love and Respect (feat. Killer Mike)”