With the release of their fourth studio album ‘Reflektor’, Arcade Fire continues to prove just how incredibly relevant they are in today’s music scene. Having secured the coveted number 1 album position over the weekend, Reflektor serves as the follow up to their 2011 Grammy Award winning album ‘The Suburbs’. The double-sided album draws on multiple styles and influences, including distinct inspiration from their time spent on tour in Haiti and Jamaica. The album also has an apparent dance-feel to it and delves into electronic realms, prompting me to refer to the band as Arcade “House” Fire. With slick production from James Murphy, Arcade Fire pushes the musical boundaries and delivers one exciting album.

‘Reflektor’ opens in a transient space 'Trapped in a prism, in a prism of light', before kick-starting into gear with some funky bass and percussive accompaniment. With lead vocals from Butler and backup vocals from Chassagne, the duo offer a ‘reflection’ of sorts, with their call and repeat style vocals. Chassagne, usually heard on lead vocals, takes a different direction and delivers perfectly balanced harmonies in tracks such as ‘Reflektor’ and ‘Joan Of Arc’. With guest backing vocals from none other than David Bowie, Arcade Fire delivers a confident opener, encompassing a variety of styles from rhythmic percussion, Caribbean influences and even horns and sax to give it that extra edge. The record has more of an dance-feel about it with flourishes of electronic samples throughout, not to mention a nice piano break towards the end repeating that infectious top line melody and building euphorically with its groove-laden, house piano vibes; an exciting opener with plenty of vigour. ‘We Exist’ continues in this same form as it swaggers along with simple ‘nah nah nah’ vocals. The ‘viby’ house piano makes another appearance gradually building momentum, while the strings swell to its soaring conclusion. As one of the shortest tracks on the album, ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ (2.42) opens with a distortion of sound and a hefty mix of percussive and electro styles. The xylophone creates a real juxtaposition of sounds, especially when pitted against electric guitar riffs.

‘Here Comes The Night Time’ explores the group’s eye-opening experience touring Haiti and the struggle of the refugees in their attempt to flee to the US: “They say heaven's a place and they know where it is/ But you know where it is? / It’s behind the gate, they won't let you in”. With Chassagne’s parents of Haitian origin too, it's no wonder they were influenced by their surroundings and incorporated Haitian dance-rhythms into their music. The Haitian-carnival rhythms and honky-tonk piano offers a chilled out vibe, yet you can feel that sense of urgency with the repetitiveness of the lyrics ‘Here comes the night time’ and the sudden change of pace towards the end; a real standout track with so many levels. ‘Normal Person’ allows the band to return to form and rock out with some killer guitar riffs. Butler asks the crowd ’Do you like Rock and Roll music… Cause I don’t know if I do’, perhaps making reference to Arcade Fire’s change in musical direction. As the track builds to a distortion of sound and reverb, there are some noticeable blues elements running throughout, including the sax and bluesy piano accompaniment. While Arcade Fire shows great skill in musical variety, they highlight their playful side in ‘You Already Know’, as introduced by an old sound clip from Jonathan Ross. Closing the first movement of Reflektor is ‘Joan Of Arc’ with its noticeable Punk-Rock influences, followed by some groove-laden inspired rhythms and one extremely catchy hook.

While the first part of Reflektor set the foundation, part two sees the group venture into the unknown both musically, creatively … and mythologically. Opening with a more subdued version of ‘Here Comes The Night Time II’, further electronic embellishments are heard throughout, solidifying this new musical direction. The following two tracks ‘Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)’ and ‘It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’, pays homage to the albums eye-catching artwork, featuring an image of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’. ‘Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)’, begins with some ethnic tribal percussion that later builds into an uplifting Beatle-esque ‘Hey Jude’ anthem. ‘It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’ directly references the tale of Orpheus; the greatest musician in Greek mythology, as he descends into the underworld to retrieve his lost love Eurydice: “Hey, Orpheus! / I’m behind you / Don’t turn around / I can find you”. The track’s electronic influences are quite apparent in the beginning, yet guitar rhythms dominate throughout before descending into a dreamlike state; much like his lost love Eurydice.

There comes a point in most albums where the momentum falls short. Unfortunately for Reflektor, ‘Porno’ is that track. The monotonous tracks lacks movement and is the only downfall in an otherwise near perfect album. Despite the penultimate track being titled ‘Afterlife’, it isn’t a direct continuation of the Greek myth, but instead parallels the afterlife with the struggles of a relationship: “When love is gone/ Where does it go?” and “Let's scream and shout 'till we work it out”. Closing Reflektor’s double record album is ‘Supersymmetry’; a reflective track with beautiful dual harmonies from Butler and Chassagne working in perfect ‘symmetry’. The track creates a serene atmosphere with the use of strings and subtle electronic accompaniments; a perfect closing track for what has been a journey of musical proportions.

Rekflektor demonstrates a great balance of musical styles and influences, brought together effortlessly by James Murphy. Each track has an immediate ‘live’ feel to it it, engaging the listener even further. Their album is like a piece of art; much like the albums artwork itself. Art is an expression of the soul and inspires people to think creatively. There’s no doubt Arcade Fire have taken a highly creative approach to Reflektor, drawing from various life experience; an experience that we the listener are only too happy to be a part of.

- Roisin Deady

Released: Mon 4th Nov 2013