Album Review: POP.1280 - Way Station
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
Someone once said writing about music is a bit like dancing about architecture, demonstrating the limitations of one art form to fully encompass another. And whilst I don’t think the statement is entirely true (saying as much about the limitations of the writer as it does about the crossing of mediums) there are times when you come across a record that just has to be listened to - pure and simple.
POP.1280’s Way Station is one such record! There have been many albums released this year that have demanded extensive listening and which have rewarded the persistent listener with a fresh experience every time Play is pushed. Having spent some time with Way Station I’ve come to realise POP.1280 have crafted one of the most interesting albums of 2019.
The band have blend a plethora of styles and influences into Way Station; whether that be the heavy, industrial dance beats of Boom Operator and Doves, with their massive, Prodigy-inspired pounding rhythms suffused with a big low-end dropped deep into the mix, or the delicate piano lines and ambient atmosphere of lead track Under Duress and The Convoy.
The juxtaposition of massive industrial beats with more eclectic sounds means Way Station is a record that never becomes predictable. One moment POP.1280 could be in a sweating Ibiza club and the next they’re presenting a dark eighties pop-vibe. Hospice’s simple riff beneath an almost country drawl-vocal creates a feeling of space at odds with the close industrial feel of the first few tracks on the record.
When the guitar-heavy Leading the Spider arrives you realise there have been no discernable strings audible in the first seven tracks of Way Station. The bluesy-licks and big bass allow POP.1280 to present a minimalist track after the over-arching laying of instrumentation prevalent early in the record. The steel Spanish strings of The Deserter along with the aching, single piano notes conjure drops of rain and, set within the industrial context of Way Station as a whole, evoke the city-scapes of Blade Runner.
Rather than end the record on a growing crescendo, POP.1280 chose to go out on a whimper not a bang with a pair of ambient tracks. The near-spoken word vocal on Home Sweet Hole and the subtly increasing musical intensity build to an expected climax that never arrives, leaving the listener in need of closure that the spacious Secret Rendezvous does not provide.
Way Station is an album that lodges itself in the brain, an enigma of a record that subvertly draws you back to it. Its mixture of styles may mean that it’s not a record for everyone but I’d recommend it’s better to know you don’t like it than not to know you do.
Something is getting bumped from my Top-Ten albums of 2019 to make way for Way Station.
POP.1280 release 'Way Station' via Weyrd Son Records on December 6th.