Hyetal's first LP, Broadcast, fell somewhere between the dubstep he'd put out on Punch Drunk and the house music he'd made with Julio Bashmore as Velour. It also belonged somewhere beyond the edge of the dance floor, with shuddering beats and melodic arrangements that would have been suffocated by club speakers but floated airily through headphones. Other influences came through as well: the soundtracks of John Carpenter, the '70s krautrock of Tangerine Dream and the shoegaze of Cocteau Twins, which gave tracks like "Phoenix" and "Diamond Islands" a hazy timbre.
Although it uses many of the same elements, Modern Worship snaps everything into sharper definition. There are still soft-focus moments, particularly in the presence of vocals from new singer Gwilym Gold, whose voice is multi-tracked into an angelic choir on "Northwestern Passage" or heard as a mournful falsetto on the downbeat "Four Walls." Broadcast vocalist Alison Garner turns up once again on "The City Is Ours." Overall the drums feel fresh and crisp, and the melodies are bright and prismatic, while still being predominantly "purple"—a style invented by Hyetal's West Country compadres Joker and Peverelist. Those synths shoot like rockets and spin like Catherine wheels over "Playing The Game" and "Lake Rider," while the Vangelis stylings of "Moving Statues" spool into the same neon-lit territory as Kuedo's Severant.
But where Jamie Teasdale's vision unfurled in glorious widescreen, Modern Worship sometimes feels as two-dimensional as the 8-bit computer games from which Hyetal took the bleeps on "Forefathers." Things start to feel a bit samey by the time another glossy '80s synth pattern turns up on "Jam The Network." But most of the problem lies in the rhythms. They're just too clean to add any contrast to the incandescent melodies, and sometimes lack the imagination of the other sounds dancing around them. There are many occasions on Modern Worship when the surging synths sweep you along with the force of a dopamine rush, but there are a few others when you're left with a nagging sense that Hyetal could take things that little bit further.
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