Kendal-based indie rock band and Mercury Prize nominees Wild Beasts’ fourth album ‘Present Tense’ sees the light of day following a full year of studio work, after experiences of ‘burn out’ from the two year touring cycle for previous album ‘Smother’. The album title is in many ways a reflection of the style; their aim for this body of work is reflecting their identity in the present. Produced by the band in collaboration with Alex ‘Lexxx’ Dromgoole and Brian Eno collaborator Leo Abrahams, the band take further steps than before into electronic and synthesised territory hinted at on ‘Smother’ in 2011.
This album is a much less single-friendly affair than previous releases, nothing being in the same upbeat vain as ‘Limbo, Panto’-era singles ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ and ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyant’, but Wild Beasts could have done much worse for a first single to grab listeners’ attention to the album than the 6/4 drum loop of opening track ‘Wanderlust’. The vocal synths featured on the track manage to sound full yet simplistic, giving greater emphasis to Hayden Thorpe’s lyrics such as “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck”.
‘Nature Boy’s lower vocal range, vocal harmonies and African-sounding drum beats continue the album into ‘Mecca’s entirely synthesised introduction. ‘Sweet Spot’ is one of the more guitar-based offerings, before ‘Daughters’ shows drummer Chris Talbot’s less conventional patterns over some heavily delayed synthesisers. ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’ is perhaps the closest Wild Beasts get to a return to more upbeat guitar-based music, but this is followed by one of the most forward-looking tracks, ‘A Dog’s Life’, with its use of rippling snare drum effects, Talbot’s drumming showing to be one of the most interesting parts of the album. The lyrics “It’s tense for me” reference the album name on ‘Past Perfect’, the minimalist nature of the album takes full effect on album highlight ‘New Life’ and the headphone-suitable ‘Palace’ closes the album.
The effect of the synthesisers throughout the album show how far Wild Beasts have come on in the last six years, ‘Present Tense’ being a dynamic and atmospheric album that should take multiple listens to fully appreciate.