For as long as I’ve been following the band, the story on Absurd Minds has been that they either picked up the melodic electro baton from Project Pitchfork, or straight swiped it from them if you’re being uncharitable. That makes assessing any new recording by them a different exercise than usual; the similarity between Absurd Minds and mid-period Pitchfork benefits them from a nostalgia standpoint, but also makes albums harder to judge on their own merits. 2020’s Sapta isn’t easier than their last few LPs to parse in that regard, although it does show the now 25 year old act’s mastery of the form they’ve chosen to work in.
If you came to Absurd Minds for big, melodic electro numbers with deep teutonic vocals in mildly awkward English, good news: Absurd Minds deliver that with aplomb across all twelve tracks of Sapta. Opener “Carry the Flag” sets the tone with smooth production that includes cinematic strings just this side of tasteful and a structure that emphasizes the track’s uplifting melody. At numerous points the band invokes rock sounds as on “Dead End” and “Descent”, with muted guitars and more traditional drum patterns, a mode that fits them well with their emphasis on big builds and pop song structures.
While you can’t take anything from the band in terms of how good they are at doing the thing they’re most well known for – from a production and and design standpoint the record sounds wonderful – there are diminishing returns from a listening standpoint. To wit, Absurd Minds write and perform one kind of vaguely melancholy electro song basically throughout, and the variations in execution can’t totally distinguish each instance. Which is a shame, really: a ballad like “Prayers” is lovely, but its distant percussion, tweaky synths and dark pads lose something when wedged between the autopilot Pitchforkisms of “Turning Away” and the soppy French-language number “Mouvement”. Each track works fine in a vacuum but they all start to blur together when listening in sequence. This problem is exacerbated by how similar many of the individual melodies are, with no hooks or choruses standing out from any of the others.
Sapta is, then, a record that is both exceptionally good in its aims, while also suffering from its chosen focus. Absurd Minds deserve full marks for effort and for just how good they are at making the kind of record we all expect from them. As a pure listening experience it’s pleasant, its baseline level of quality high enough to excuse the fact that it infrequently rises above it.