Spartak’s journey from freeform soundscape makers to abstract pop makers continues unabated on their new EP, Five Points. From the opening of ‘On Conditions’, it’s something special. A droney, vaguely industrial loop sets in and doesn’t give up for the next 7 minutes. But it’s the layers applied over and under this loop that turn it into something epic. Wasted vocal incantations, lysergic analog synth washes and building rhythms bring the whole thing to a percolating boil. And the quality over the course of the EP doesn’t let up.
One of the distinctive features are the vocals which eschew both current cliches in indie male voice delivery – atonal lo-fi and sickly blue-eyed nu-soul. By remaining both melodic yet not over reaching, they come across with a humanity often missing in the songs of the current waves of alternative. Melodically, they inhabit a similar field to, say, Joy Division, where monotone sections contrast with leaps into earworm hooks.
Shoeb Ahmad’s guitar, which he often wields with noisy or extended technique abandon in improvised contexts, is here used in slightly more traditional manners. Lead guitar filigrees swirl around here and there, while single chords are cut and looped to simultaneously create the rhythmic and harmonic foundations of some tracks. Elsewhere, simple drum loops never feel underdeveloped as they underpin the processed glitches and bubbling, abstract loops which provide the rhythmic complexity. The moods across the five tracks are sometimes tense, as in ‘On Conditions’, and at others, brooding, as in the closer, ‘Consistence’. But the mood remains consistently on edge across all five tracks, providing a bite that holds attention. The most pop moment, ‘Nighshift’, brings all the contrasts into one. A minor key key verse makes way for a slight major key shift into the chorus, with the contrasts between the two voices of Ahmad and Evan Dorrian.
The move into more accessible melodic terrain has been a deliberate one for Spartak. What is most pleasing, however, is that they have left behind none of their exploratory sound worlds, none of their abstract tendencies, they’ve merely added new layers to their established ones, creating a release with incredible depth and consistency. New things jump out with each listen, while the hooks, sonic and melodic, remain after it’s all over.