Despite extensive touring and continuous success since debut album Bad Blood, Bastille has managed to find time between concerts to record a new EP of material.
VS. (Other People’s Heartache, Pt. III) is the third volume of work intended to go beyond the usual electronic, occasionally tribal synth-pop Bastille sound.
Fall Into Your Arms with The Gemma Sharples Quartet is a stately start to the extended play, slowly building up the atmosphere before the true opener, Bite Down with Haim. Kicking off with exciting, percussive guitar from Danielle Haim and an anticipatory drum roll, this track ends up sounding too similar to the title track to Bad Blood. However, it is still a bop, further enhanced by hooks like ‘bite down to meeeeeee’ and cool, calm harmonies.
Bastille’s collaborations with some of the most exciting rappers today are the most rewarding for listeners. bad_news with MNEK is claustrophobic high drama. The tension is accentuated by spooky effects on lead vocalist Dan Smith’s vocals, a misleadingly soothing melody that masks the simmering anger of the foreboding lyrics, and an almost religious acapella ending that ends abruptly with a gunshot. Single Torn Apart is split into two distinct halves. Euphoria sparked by Smith’s opening lines and the recurring message of ‘born to be together’ signals the hopeful, fantasy-like first half. To great effect, the second half has reality sinking in as uplifting keyboards collapse to discordant house bass and rapper Lizzo defiantly spits out words about the truth. The second single Weapon has more angry, unrelenting Yeezus-like bass. The ‘I will fall into your arms again’ hook becomes even deadlier, as Angel Haze doesn’t hold herself back in her verse over this cold industrial track.
The Driver highlights the smokier touches to Smith’s voice, yet this track is far from soothing. Instead, it smacks listeners in the face with hard beats and the unsettling stopping and starting of guitar and synths. Overall, the mood on much of this EP is desperate, tempestuous and very much unlike the atmosphere of the Bad Blood album.
The closer Remains winds the fury down and leaves the emotional highlight to last, as blues-soul singer Rag N Bone Man and Skin from Skunk Anansie wear their hearts on their sleeve. Skin’s anguish permeates through the speakers, as her raspy voice chokes up on a few words.
Bastille keeps its fans longing for more before its hotly anticipated sophomore album. VS. (Other People’s Heartache, Pt. III is unexpected for those accustomed to Bad Blood, but shows the band’s production talent and fearlessness in experimenting with other genres.