Pivot – And then there were three

August 1, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, EG, August 1, 2008.

Pivot’s new album has been a life-changing experience, writes Dan Rule.

Break-ups, near-disbandment and international label deals – the period adjoining the creation of amorphous second record O Soundtrack My Heart was anything but harmonious for Sydney-birthed experimental trio Pivot.

“Oh man, “ sighs laptop artist and most recent addition Dave Miller.  “We had band members leaving, we had lots of long-term personal relationships f— up in the six months prior to the record, so it was very much an emotional time.”

Originally formed as a quintet in the late 90s, Pivot have long garnered a whispered, word-of-mouth reputation on the Australian underground. Their lithe, multi-layered traversals of post-rock, atmospherics, electronics and most things in between have translated to some of the most dynamic live shows on the experimental circuit.

But by the time they’d dropped their long-overdue debut Make Me Love You – released in 2005 through boutique Melbourne imprint Sensory Projects – the five-piece had narrowed considerably. After a spate of creative tensions, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Richard Pike, his drummer-extraordinaire brother Laurence and the newly appointed Miller were left the last men standing.

“I think Richard and Laurence might have thought that the leaving band members were stifling some ideas,” posits Miller, today chatting from France, on a break from their hectic pre-album touring schedule.

“It sounds kind of cliché, but with all that stuff on going on, instead of making the record dreary, we kind of just tried to turn it into a positive. The record was certainly heavy, and I still feel that now when I listen to the songs, but it was about moving on as well, you know, rather than just becoming stuck in the negativity.”

Indeed, the close the group’s initial chapter came with a silver lining. O Soundtrack My Heart sees Pivot – an act largely ignored by the higher echelons domestic music industry – become the first Australian act to have been signed and released on legendary London experimental label Warp Records. Suffice to say, it was nothing short of a coup for the trio.

“I think we were actually one of the first bands they’d signed without actually seeing them live,” says Miller. “I think they just took everyone else’s word for it, rather than actually coming and checking us out.”

“It was weird, the first time we actually played in London was the first time anyone from the label had actually seen us, so it was quite nerve-racking actually,” he laughs. “It was probably the worst show we’d played too.”

Warp couldn’t have been happier with the album Pivot delivered. Recorded and tracked while Miller was in London and the Pike brothers in Sydney – with the help of emailed sound files and lengthy Skype conferences – the record sparks with inertia and dynamism.

Where Make Me Love You was a model of restrained tension and release, with the band gradually layering guitars, keys and texture, O Soundtrack My Heart takes a far less symmetrical shape. The hooky, space-pop melodies of cuts like Epsilon, the driving In the Blood and stunning Sweet Memory are counterpoised by the jittering percussion and arcing atmosphere of Love Like I and shuddering guitar and electronic abrasions of Didn’t I Furious.

“There was no question of Make Me Love You not being melodically great,” says Miller. “But it really wasn’t all that dangerous and that was one factor that we definitely had to focus on. We had to keep things a lot rawer and to keep things unpredictable, which I kind of feel like we achieved on this record.”

Nonetheless, they’re not about to rest on their laurels. While releasing an album through Warp and relocating to London may seem like a huge deal back home, Pivot realise that they’re still near the bottom of the food chain. “It’s funny,” says Miller. “Having Warp’s stamp of approval really opens up all these new opportunities, but you also realise just how small you are.”

“Like, we just played the smallest of six dance stages at Glastonbury, and there are like a whole four more areas with just countless stages,” he laughs. “It was just jaw-droppingly huge.”

“So hopefully we can go back there one day and people might actually know who we are.”

Pivot play at the East Brunswick Club next Thursday. They are supporting Sigur Ros at Festival Hall tonight.

O Soundtrack My Heart is out now through Warp/Inertia

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