Last week, The Raveonettes surprised fans with the release of Pe’Ahi, the Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Woo’s seventh studio album. It’s surprising in more ways than one. First, the album, while known to be released this year, was suddenly released to the public with little notice. Second, Pe’Ahi sees the band move away from its harmony-laden, art-rock of previous albums to one that is fuzzier and fuller. The lush melodies and dream elements remain in parts, but there’s a grittier and at times even darker sound on the new record, which are complemented by the sudden melody shifts and the rousing, anthemic climaxes of each song.
There are also much more electronic-synth textures, although the band never goes too far to be EDM. And whereas 2012’s Observator created lush sonic landscapes and sugary vibes, the resulting changes and additions see The Raveonettes take Pe’Ahi to territory musically and lyrically – more diversity in sound, much more climatic, and lyrics that are more honest and edgier. Pe’Ahi, as such, might be the most personable album the duo have written.
From the start, “Endless Sleeper“, the new sound and approach are introduced. It might bring to mind immediately the style of Phantogram but in a more aggressive fashion. However, the “reinvention” of the band is best exemplified in “A Hell Below” and “Kill”. Sung over distorted, fuzzy guitars and an upbeat tempo in the mould of Phantagram, “A Hell Below” deals with learning about the infidelity of a love and retribution. While the song comes across as danceable and groovy, the lyrics are angry and to the point. There aren’t any analogies to describe the band’s feelings.
“Kill”, likewise, is startling in its subject about being abandoned by one’s father. Played over severely distorted guitars, a pounding bass line, and a scratched synth, the song is intense, aggressive, and vivid. As Woo sings, “I never met my dad in a loving dream, smiling in the moonless night. One time I saw my dad f*ck a redhead whore. I never ever thought I would. I never ever thought I would.” She then asks, “Are you going to leave me? Are you now? Do you feel that it’s o.k.?” And she answers her own question, “Never going to see you again. I’m never going to see you again.”
The feelings of loss, hurt, and abandonment are heard throughout the album. “Sisters” has Wagner consoling his siblings as they encounter setback and disappointment time and time again. “Killer on the Streets” addresses a rocky relationship and the questions that arise from a partner’s unpredictable behaviours.
Even on songs that build on their harmonic, dream-pop foundation – such as “Z-Boys” and “The Rains of May“, The Raveonettes have added new layers and extra fuzz. Thematically, the songs stay the course, although the latter – the most gorgeous track on the 10-song album – offers glimpses of optimism and possibility.
Some fans may be surprised by the outcome of Pe’Ahi. It is challenging in the subjects it speaks about it and the honesty of Wagner and Woo’s lyrics. And unlike the past versions of The Raveonettes that took listeners on a gorgeous trek, on Pe’Ahi they bring the listeners into their world, which isn’t all summery and wonderful. It is, though, real and poignant. It is an album that with each listens is captivating, enthralling, and imposing because we can all see ourselves living in the world that Wagner and Woo have produced.
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