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Album Review: Panorama by La Dispute

Experimental hardcore act La Dispute release their fourth album Panorama on 22nd March via Epitaph records. From their 2008 debut (in their current formation) Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, to 2011’s Wildlife, to 2015’s Rooms of the House, La Dispute have continually pushed themselves to find new ways to portray some of the most difficult and universally affecting subject matters. Casting a wide stylistic net that includes – but isn’t limited to – jazz, blues, spoken word, screamo and prog rock, La Dispute have developed a sound that, while constantly evolving, is unmistakably theirs.

Recorded between November 2017 and August 2018, Panorama is in many ways a continuation on a theme. It’s a highly ambitious and deeply affecting body of work that filters narrative storytelling through a personal lens. It’s heavier and weirder than previous efforts, taking the intensity of Wildlife and the patience of Rooms of the House and using them as pillars upon which to build something new. And, in doing so, they have broken through their own ceiling and set a new one.

Overall, it feels like more of personal album. There’s less detachment, with lyrics having focussed more on the self rather than taking the position as an observer. In that essence it’s a little more immediate and relatable, yet as always, it’s the music that really carries the band forward.

The spectral electro-leaning instrumental ‘Rose Quartz’, which opens the album, is the biggest step forward for the band, while tracks like ‘Fulton Street I’, ‘Anxiety Panorama’ and ‘You Ascendant’ will feel a little more familiar as they drag the darkness of Wildlife into harsher places. Lead single ‘Rhodonite and Grief’ has the feel of Rooms Of The House – and as such is the perfect bridge between the two albums.

Panorama really shines with the final three tracks. ‘Footsteps at the Pond’ is the most traditionally accessible the band have been – they veer towards indie rock – and they sound all the stronger for it. Conversely the contrasting styles of ‘There You Are (Hiding Place)’ and ‘You Ascendant’ couldn’t display the prowess of La Dispute any better. In many ways it is the signature of the band, with the intuitive hardcore of the former giving a raucous counterpoint to the fully emotional, atmospheric and experimental feel of the latter.

This is beyond doubt La Dispute’s best piece of work – glorious.

AD Rating 9/10

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