Art vs. Science – The Experiment

Art vs. Science inhabit a strange place on the Australia dance music scene. With thick analog synths and forever hurtling beats, they certainly fit into the electro part of the EDM spectrum but the band are more willingly embraced by the traditionally alt-rock audiences of triple j and its ilk than by dance fans. Perhaps that’s because Art vs. Science’s approach to making dance music seems rooted in a rock mentality of sorts. The Sydney trio seems to be more of a muscular and energetic live act ready to scale a stack of Marshall amps than a considered studio collective probing through sound-banks for the right Roland tone.

Indeed, that’s where Art vs. Science’s charm lies. There’s an endearing lack of pretension to their music, and even less of a filter with the band steaming to notoriety on a few lightning-in-a-bottle tunes and stores of reckless abandon. Having established themselves as radio-dominators and festival-ready hit makers, Art vs. Science now face their first genuine test with The Experiment, the band’s debut album and their attempt at converting their winning formula to the big time.

Things start promisingly enough on The Experiment with the trio nixing their standout belters like Parlez Vous Fraincais? and Flippers in favour of something a little more measured in Finally See Our Way. Built on some grumbling bass, chugging beats and wandering falsetto vocals it’s a nice change of pace for the band and sort of a curveball first shot from the record. Before long though it’s back to Art vs. Science at their best with the band crunching down on their stadium-sized chorus and busting out a wiry synth-solo somewhere between The Final Countdown and the training montage in Rocky IV.

From there Art vs. Science step up the pace, tearing into uptempo jams like A.I.M. Fire!, Take A Look At Your Face and Magic Fountain all of which feature pounding beats and carnivals of giddy synth patterns. The same again on something like Sledgehammer, which makes up for its simplistic lyrics with some frantic synth aggression.

It’s not all balls to the wall though, as something like With Thoughts with its flighty acoustic vibes offers a much needed mid-album respite and Rain Dance melds Flaming Lips-style psych-flourishes with meaty prog riffs (synths and guitars) and bi-polar moods.

That said, it’s still a bit of an adjustment (for both the band and the listener) to go from short, sharp bursts of Art vs. Science to spending a whole hour with them and a few tunes suffer because of that. For instance where its neighbouring tracks come off as playful Higher grates with its dodgy raps and kung fu puns, while New World Order is too slavish to the ‘80s synth-cheese records that Art vs. Science can only have had second-hand exposure too. And then there’s Bumblebee which somehow plumbs new depths of irritation.

While ‘mature’ is probably not the right word to describe Art vs. Science’s transition to the full length format, they’ve definitely put plenty of time, energy and thought into The Experiment, even if the brazen style of their material goes against such qualities.

The Experiment is out now through Green/MGM.