Of all the electro-rock outfits indebted to New Order that emerged during the tail end of the 00s, it was Mancunians Delphic who were tipped for the greatest things. But a mediocre debut and a three-year hiatus means they now return firmly below Everything Everything and Friendly Fires in the pecking order.
Unfortunately, their long-awaited second album Collections won’t elevate them any higher, with its bewildering mix of hip-hop, 80s synth-pop and post-R&B likely to baffle and indeed alienate the majority of those who enjoyed the occasionally thrilling guitar-driven sound of Acolyte.
Delphic, therefore, might now as well be considered a different entity altogether. But there are enough gems on Collections to justify such a radical transition, even if their chances of commercial success have disappeared with it.
Opening with an eerie female answerphone message, “Tears Before Bedtime” is a beautifully melancholic lullaby which drifts into the realm of How To Dress Well and Holy Other. The similarly ghostly R&B of closer “Exotic,” which also features a quick burst of beat-boxing, is another convincing foray into urban territory, while the playful array of gleaming synths, string samples and chilled piano hooks on “Changes” and “Freedom Found” recall the bittersweet oddball pop of Passion Pit.
But as the anguished tones of James Cook shouts “all hell breaks loose” on the lounge-pop funk of lead single “Baiya,” you only wish that such a statement were true. For even when the band try the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, from the Muse-does-hip-hop of “Memeo” to the dubstep breakdown shoehorned into the new-wave pop of “Atlas,” the record rarely shifts into the third gear you expect.
Of course, considering it would have been much easier for Delphic to come back with their own version of Technique or Republic, they should be admired for their sense of invention. But despite keyboardist Rick Boardman’s claims that the band aspires to change the state of popular music, Collections is unlikely to have the impact they crave.