Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno

New York Times MAY 26, 2014 - by Nate Chinen

OWEN PALLETT: IN CONFLICT

Owen Pallett positions himself as both the observer and the observed in the songs that constitute his new album, In Conflict - often within the same turn of phrase. A sustained chamber-synthpop reflection on the idea of romantic and sexual turmoil, the album is also a tangle of confessions and absolutions, artfully and bravely unresolved.

Not that irresolution has ever slowed down Mr. Pallett. Over the last decade, mainly under the moniker Final Fantasy, he has shown a knack for elaborate constructions, not only musical but also lyrical and conceptual. He's a paragon of rigor, but maybe not the best spokesman for simple clarity. So it's easy to read truth into a line from "I Am Not Afraid, which opens the new album: "My salvation is found in discipline, discipline."

Most of Mr. Pallett's previous work has revolved around sampled loops of his violin, applied in layers. For In Conflict, he leans more on vintage analog synthesizers (an ARP 2600, a Roland Juno-60), and on the flesh-and-blood groove of the bassist Matt Smith and the drummer Robbie Gordon. Some tracks feature Brian Eno, the runic Buddha of ambient music, on backup vocals, synths or guitar. The album's overall sound favors sleek contour and shrewd repetition, with every part serving a purpose.

Lyrically, Mr. Pallett is more plainspoken than usual on In Conflict without losing his poetic voice. Song For Five And Six, one of the glossier synth tunes, begins with what seems a terse self-assessment: "Even as a child, you felt the terror of the infinite." On The Riverbed, propelled by a choppy beat, he sketches a picture of despondency, leading to a pledge: "Thunderhead, oh thunderhead / I will be your riverbed."

The sure-footedness extends to Mr. Pallett's singing, and to his moments of divulgence, real or imagined. In The Passions, an art song about a moment of physical intimacy, he puts the emotional weight on a single word, "compassion," drawing it out within a fog of chromatic unease.

The Secret Seven, an appraisal of a ruined relationship, ends with the digits of an old phone number. And The Sky Behind The Flag, about another old flame, concludes with a note to self: "Owen, why must you always be first to wake and first to fight, first to wound and first to fly?"


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