Historically, bands who are inspired to change the roots of their sound often do so later-than-sooner. It’s rare that a “born-again” band reconstructs itself between the release of their debut and the making of studio album #2. But, of course, there are exceptions, and such is the case with Blouse on their second “debut” album, Imperium. As implemented by band member and producer Jacob Portrait, the Portland trio wrote and recorded with “instruments that don’t plug into the wall.” This is a giant step away from the group’s lovely, drum machine-fueled debut, Blouse, an ’80s-influenced, synth-plastered 21st century exploration.
Opening with title track “Imperium”, vocalist Charlie Hilton asks, “Are you one of us?” and repeats that “over again/ it’s the same/ it’s imperium.” Presumably fed up with the idea of absolute power, the album ironically follows with the trio blending together undistinguishable sounds, no single aspect taking any total control or offering a theme to connect the tracks.
While the lyrical themes of Imperium, when considered as a whole, feel disconnected, standout tracks “1000 Years” and “Capote” feature the strongest vocal-to-instrumentation bond. The former features Patrick Adams’ and Portrait’s guitar riffs, which coalesce instrumentally to properly prop up Hilton’s sweetest line, “I’ll love you for a thousand years.” On “Capote”, Hilton’s croons finally dance in sync with Blouse’s newfound psychedelic pop sound. As the album breezily draws to a close, the final moments of “Trust Me” perfectly illustrate Blouse’s being “lost in translation,” with the track’s output volume increasing and decreasing intermittently, and Hilton aimlessly pleading, “I’m the one who loves you” to whomever has total control, or “imperium.”
Blouse was the outfit’s proper debut, in which they triumphed through control of electronically influenced indie and dream pop. With Imperium, the group attempt to jump ship, to reset the odometer. Starting fresh on a new route rather than continuing down the old one, they’ve got a long way to travel if they want to arrive at a well-rounded psych pop record.
Essential Tracks: “Imperium”, “1000 Years”, and “Capote”