“Silver is nothing more than the displacement of water,” Owen Pallett sings in On A Path, the third track on his new solo album. It’s a track that starts out with slowly prodding percussion and shiny strings, but takes a sharp left turn around the midway point to dramatic, near-Broadway musical territory. This is the essence of Owen Pallett. He’s an incredibly talented musician whose intrinsically catchy songs might fool you into thinking it’s not that impressive—until a little something in the song reminds you that it is. Turning something into silver by removing what’s watering it down.
As his second album under the name Owen Pallett (he’s released two as Final Fantasy), In Conflict peels back the layers of Pallett’s previous works and creates an even more complex standard of orchestration. His last LP, Heartland, was released four years ago, so it seems his violin loopings and vocal inflections have had time to simmer. So have his lyrics. While past releases had Pallett singing fantastical things like, “Doomsday, the end of the century/In accord with prophecy,” In Conflict is Pallett’s most polished and most personal release yet. Elements of family, romantic relationships and even gender identity make an appearance here.
The album’s opening song, I Am Not Afraid, starts with his recognizable looped string arrangement, building slowly. As a classically trained violinist, Pallett wastes no time in reminding you of his calling card. But this time there’s something different: a synthetic blip; a silicon blast. This electronic fiddling continues throughout the album, as on the stuttering parade march Chorale, or in the erratic beat melee of Infernal Fantasy.
But the most exciting parts of In Conflict still exist in Pallett’s instrumentation: the simple, watery keys in The Passions; the unexpected rainstorm of percussion in The Sky Behind The Flag; Pallett’s vocals that move from soft quiver to full tenor on the title track. And when paired with his simple pop tendencies, the intricacies are easy to absorb. All you have to do is listen.