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coverpic flag Canada - Full Moon 218 - 06/13/14

Owen Pallett
In Conflict
Domino/Secret City

Violinist, vocalist, keyboardist, composer Owen Pallett is a highflying, hyper artist, as ever. Not that he's overly productive. It's been over four years since his last studio album, Heartland (which was inspired by Pallett's fascination with theism), was released. As I'm sitting here writing these words Pallett is touring Europe with his longtime friends and countrymen, Arcade Fire. Pallett has been their stringman and arranger for years, ever since Funeral. (he even co-wrote the score to the movie Her (2013, dir.: Spike Jonze) with William Butler of Arcade Fire). They played Oslo yesterday (eh, I didn't go...). Can you imagine: Pallett's releasing his album, but is way busy working for others (well, he's doing a few club gigs around Europe in-between stadium and festival jobs for Arcade Fire). Anyway, Pallett's been around, working with the big stars, such as Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Taylor Swift, yes, even Robbie Williams. He's also been working with R.E.M., Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand, The National, Fucked Up, Alex Turner, The Hidden Cameras, as well as with Grizzly Bear, Death from Above 1979, Caribou, The Mountain Goats, Jim Guthrie, and Beirut, to name but a few. It's quite funny to see the width of the spectre of genres And angles of the bands and artists he's been collaborating with and working with. Well, back to Pallettt solo, then.

In Conflict is Owen Pallett's fourth album, but his first two albums - Has a Good Home (Blocks Recording Club 2005) and He Poos Clouds (Blocks Recording Club/Tomlab 2006) - was recorded and released under the moniker Final Fantasy. In Conflict, which had the working titles Baiting the Drones and/or Vengeance was originally planned for release last fall, but was delayed for several reasons (including Arcade Fire's upcoming tour). This is the first release following Owen's reunion with Matt Smith (guitar) and Rob Gordon (drums). Pallett, Smith and Gordon used to be in a band called Les Mouches. "It will probably be both grandiose, dark and at times dissonant", Pallett told Gaffa magazine about the upcoming album last winter. And, yes, it is grandiose (what else can yo expect from Pallett...), and dissonant, but also distinct and powerful, playful and whimsical, melodic and catchy, as well as holding more of the majestic epic arrangements of intricate violin masterpieces, and his signature literary and contemplative lyrical curls.

The album opens with "I Am Not Afraid". True words. Owen Pallett is not afraid. For anything. For nothing. From the very first note this is classical pop experimentalism, and pop escapism. Pop dreamscapes, while being awake. Imagine lowering your body in a bathtub filled to the rim with Cava, and Prosecco, and Champagne. Sparkling, bubbling, fizzing. Life elixir! In the making, some thirty demos were cut down to twenty, and then down to the final thirteen. Guest vocalists include "...several heavenly-bodied women, one best friend and one famous old man." The 'old man' is one Brian Eno. Again he has collaborated with the Czech FILMharmonic Orchestra (AKA Czech Philharmonic Orchestra); they also performed on Heartland, which was recorded partly in Prague. Pallett seems to be a shy and charming, a kind-hearted eccentric. When he was awarded the 2006 Polaris Music Prize for his second album, rumour has it that he felt so uncomfortable receiving a prize sponsored by a mobile phone conglomerate, that he gave the money away to bands he liked who needed financial assistance. And, when a fragment from one of his songs was used in a series of commercials without Pallett's authorization (due to some miscommunication with his label), he decided to donate all income from this to Doctors Without Borders. Respect.

In Conflict is almost like a Horn of plenty when it comes to delicoius pop music. "Song for Five & Six", "I Am Not Afraid", "The Riverbed", "Chorale", "The Sky Behind the Flag", "Soldiers Rock", "Infernal Fantasy". The list is long. Amazing stuff. It's so full of life. Pallett is a true magician. The 50 minute ride is a really nice swirl through Owen Pallett's magical world. He's like a Willy Wonka of pop music. He has been noted for his smashing live performances, where he plays his violin into a loop pedal, a technique also used by the brilliant Andrew Bird. I guess we all should stop up and get a ticket next time Pallett visits a club near us. Last time (before yesterday, that is) he visited Oslo was during the Inferno Metal (!) Festival 2010, when he e-mailed the festival booking office asking, begging to come and play! Owen Pallett is for sure one of a kind: "There are some pretty funny moments when you play to 5,000 people and at the end of the show you say, 'bye' and then five minutes later you're back onstage unplugging cables," he told Spinner magazine. "Can you imagine how funny that would be if [Lady] Gaga came offstage, took off her costume then came back and unplugged cables?".

Copyright © 2014 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Owen Pallett articles/reviews: Heartland, Song for Five & Six.

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