In the run-up to a long-delayed debut album, they’ve popped out – within a single week – two syncopated new songs owing more to Ben Folds or to prime-period Stevie Wonder than to the shriller rock noises of Muse, Mew or Queen. Staunch prog fans may smell a rat – personally, I smell flowering. It sounds as if Evolutia have learned to please themselves, rather than just expectation; and in the process have upped their game a few notches. Hooray to that.
Out of the two, it’s Objects Aside – with its fancy footwork and vein of darkness – that bears the resemblance to Ben Folds. Stephen jags and dominates with a syncopated, flouncing curl of piano lick. Andrew tack-hammers it with a bass guitar line that’s part Rush, part snap-funk. Both of them fence around the rhythm; occasionally, they haul in guest drummer Zach Branff, gang up on the rhythm altogether, pin it against the ropes and pummel it with Uzi beats. Kneading furiously on a bass synth,Andrew half-sighs, half-growls the lyrics. “We take what we get, climb to the top of it / Throwing objects aside to the left and the right / ‘Til we see the light.”
I’m not sure whether all of this is about greed or about looking for something better than toys’n’favours. It fits both. There’s a tangle of frustrated persuasion working its way through the song, too (“It’s useless, I won’t give up – you’ll come around.”) Later on, Andrew and Stephen share the singing on an aspirational bridge, assuring us that “this darkness will never come, you’ll see that we’ll rest in peace. / Your heart’s buried in secrets that you’ll uncover eventually.” Briefly, the lighters come out. Mostly, though, this is about dancing aggressively, up on your toes, on unfriendly ground.I made the mistake of listening to Secret’s Safe on headphones in the dark. Within the first forty seconds I jumped up, thinking that I was being burgled. This song has the best creaky-door sample since Thriller – unexpected, sliding mockingly through your head, ending in a sly lock-snick. It sits edgily against what’s otherwise a bouncy, funky shuffle, a latter-day Higher Ground. It renders it suspicious, as if someone was rifling your mind while you danced.
It’s certainly a ridiculously danceable song. Andrew’s laddering virtuosic bass-guitar riff skips and spirals around a pulsing tower of synth bass, while Stephen’s crunched-up electric piano stabs and bounces underneath. It’s also Stephen singing, in his clarion tenor, about trust and exchange. “You got something that you’re hiding; you’ve gotta make me believe. / Showed you mine now show me yours – / stolen whispers are the key.”
Actually, trust doesn’t come into it. This is all about coercion and manipulation, and it grows ever more slightly mocking as it swings onward. Stephen shifts in and out of character, between wheedler and withholder – “Promise not to tell / There’s nothing like a little pressure / You know I’ve kept it well / Lips are sealed forever.” While sometimes the song delves into the pressures of keeping things unspoken (“trying to get back the beats your heart skipped”) the payoff is power. “Your secret’s safe with me,” Stephen sings, before adding, in an aside “(She’s got nowhere to go.)” Stealth breaking-and-entering.
Evolutia: ‘Objects Aside’ & ‘Secrets Safe’
Released: 5th & 9th April 2012 (respectively)