‘Ill Fit’ and ‘Blood Will Roll’ are triumphs, the latter driven by crashing, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows‘-esque drums that build towards a satisfactorily frenetic climax. It sets a template that the rest of the record follows, but not always successfully; ‘I Hold Loneliness’ sounds like a slower, more sluggish version of Animal Collective‘s ‘My Girls‘, and the quick tempo of ‘Gale’ feels compromised by the sheer volume of instrumentation. Often, the overlapping synths on the record lend the songs a dense quality that smothers the vocals, which might explain why, commercially speaking at least, they find themselves lagging behind similarly eccentric peers like Wild Beasts and Everything Everything. Those bands allow the unusual vocal style to take centre stage and build songs around it, but on Pollen, the vocals often seem treated as an afterthought, drowned in a sea of electronic noise. For a band like Wave Machines, less can so often be more, and nothing proves this point quite like the record’s gorgeous closer, ‘Sitting in a Chair, Blinking’; sparse and restrained in its instrumentation, it gives the vocals a little room to breathe, with startlingly effective results.
Irrespective of opinion, Wave Machines’ faith in their own experimental style and apparent refusal to entertain outside ideas of what might amount to a more commercially viable sound is to be commended. There are moments of brilliance on Pollen that are more than enough to point to promise in future releases, and there’s plenty of room for more alt-pop bands; exercising a little more restraint might launch them into the popular appreciation that’s so far eluded them.
As contrastive as Pollen is from the bands debut, it is at heart still identifiable as a Wave Machines record; there's a pop sensibility running through the core of the album, slick, electronic-tinged undertones showing that the band have in no way lost their ability to write a hook, nor to engage you with a rhythm. Leading singles 'Ill Fit' and 'I Hold Loneliness' are great proof of this, an amalgamation of old and new, the provocative rhythms of the bands debut, mixed with the atmospherics of their current sound. That in mind this doesn't feel like a betrayal of their original sound, much more it shows the extent to which Wave Machines have developed in the three years since their debut, the depth and complexity of the bands songwriting and the sincerity that runs through the album paints the image of band far beyond their second release. This is perfectly highlighted in the title-track 'Pollen' featuring delicate guitars and ethereal orchestration that swells and bursts into evocative layers of delays and feedback.
Wave Machines have achieved something quite remarkable with Pollen in the way that it flows so naturally as a body of work. From start to finish each track complements the previous and draws you into the next, being almost contextualised by its surroundings. This is something that fans of the debut may initially struggle with; the tracks are not as immediate, the hooks less distinct and the rhythms less exuberant, as a result of this some tracks loose their impact as individual offerings. However once delved into it's well worth the effort, Pollen truly immerses you in its persona, carrying you through a somber yet romantic experience. For a second record it boasts a sound that is bold and uncompromising, showcasing a band that are utterly confident in their own skin. That in mind, one can only imagine where this albums follow up will take them.