In the three years since Delphic released their debut album Acolyte, a lot has changed in the musical landscape.
Collections, their ‘difficult second album’ seems to have acknowledged all these changes and instead of adapting and evolving their original sound, they’ve taken all these elements to create a completely new sound which fails to connect on any level. Put it this way, if Acolyte felt like an underground, late-night party in Manchester; Collections feels like the middle-evening, glossy sheen of an upmarket bar in Soho. Everything that made their first album great has been lost here in favour for a polished, produced sheen that barely hides the fact that the album lacks continuity and cohesiveness.
Before even the first song ‘Of the Young’ finishes it is easy to tell that Delphic have done a musical 180. Although it begins with the industrial bleeps and clatters that you would expect, they are soon hidden beneath the layers of tambourine, piano and guitar that try to turn this in to a vast soundscape. But it feels too forced, too contrite and instead comes off as an illusion of grandeur.
‘Baiya’ is a smooth R’n’B groove that is undeniably catchy, with elements that sound Eastern-influenced… And yet it just feels wrong. Perhaps it is because given their back-catalogue, the last thing you really expected to hear is ‘tenderness is the only weapon left/I comfort you’ as their main hook in a song. Or maybe it is because instead of the vocals feeling like they are naturally associated with the song—it feels like the two things are separate and replaceable entities. The strings on the track lend some redemption, but in amongst everything else it just feels too much.
‘Changes and the danger of those phases’ begins the aptly named ‘Changes’—whether it means more deliberately is up for discussion but this album is full of changes. Beginning with a piano-vocal harmony the synths and production barrel over that and make the track sound something more akin to those ‘edgy’ Justin Bieber/Conor Maynard tracks. ‘Freedom Found’ sounds more like something Drake would have a hand in collaborating on and sounds so club friendly it actually makes me cringe.
The melancholic, piano led ‘Tears Before Bedtime’ starts with so much potential with it’s crackling, beeping phone recording overlay. But the track, instead of building towards something, just stays at this gloomy tempo with added choir which just grates. It is perhaps by default then that ‘The Sun Also Rises’ feels like the best track on the album. Even though it is still slick and glossily produced, it relies slightly less on the commercialised synths of its predecessors—it has a bit more going on.
By the point he closing duo of ‘Don’t Let the Dreamers Take You Away’ and ‘Exotic’ arrive I was seriously starting to find the album difficult to swallow. These tracks did help… But very much in the wrong way. ‘Don’t Let the Dreamers…’ is so boyband pop-ballad formulaic it is shocking/laughable. Beginning with a male and female vocal duet, piano and background clap-esque synths it just is everything you never would’ve expected. The synths continue on with this commercial sound throughout with female vocalists appearing every now and again to sing ‘Don’t let the dreamers’ in that distinct pop ballad way. ‘Exotic’ has a beatboxer and a rapper and a slow, chill groove to it—and it just fails to make any impression apart from ‘no’.
I have no doubt that this album will sell and appeal to a huge audience—but not the same one that Acolyte did. Their first album was a fantastic indie-influenced take on electro-house that not only made you dance, but made a higher resonance within. Collections instead experiments and merges elements of more popular genres together—but only scratches the surface in all of them; making the album a masterclass in the superficial.