Time has an overwhelming effect on pop music, both with regard to its creation and our perception of it. Artists don’t work in a vacuum, though we often like to think they do. Rather their work inevitably contains features or moments that are decidedly of their time. Spanish electro-pop act Delorean must know this all too well, for their work is grounded in the sound of the not-too-distant past. They, along with like-minded groups like Yeasayer, represent a moment in pop music where electronic music was taking cues from dozens of different genres and coming closer than ever to resembling mainstream pop.

Now, in an era where the pop charts and hipster circles alike have embraced electronic music, Delorean somehow seem eerily out of place. On their latest album, Muzik, they make some overtures to this changing musical landscape, but they mostly dig in their heels, convinced that they got it right the first time around.

After establishing a core aesthetic with Subiza and then three years later attempting to move away from it on Apar, Delorean seem to be moving back towards the comforts of home on Muzik. The album as a whole sounds very much as one would expect from Delorean, especially those who tuned out after Subiza. Blissed-out opener “Epic” feels like a throwback to those simpler times. While its approach is slightly more minimalistic and beat-focused, the swirl of sounds that bursts forth can’t be interpreted as anything but an attempt to recreate those feelings of ecstasy that came so easily in the past. Much of Muzik follows this example as the band seems intent on revisiting the past with a lighter, sparer touch.

The gamble pays off for the most part, however. They sound very happy to be back in a comfortable groove on Muzik, and their more experienced approach to arrangements allows the group to play with different emotions and perspectives. Songs like “Figures” and “Closer” have elements of darkness to them, a surprising touch from a group so associated with being a non-stop party soundtrack. However, they know enough to snatch joy from the jaws of despair, thus avoiding falling into the bleak EDM trap that has befallen so many artists since Jamie xx made it cool. Even moody electro-pop experiments like “Push” emphasize the pop aspect of things, relying more on hooks than atmosphere. Overall, Muzik does a great job of discovering the dark underpinnings of ecstatic dance music.

Granted, Muzik isn’t a perfect album. There’s a heavy amount of focus given to Ekhi Lopetegi’s vocals and lyrics here. And while he remains a capable singer, his lyrical insights don’t go very far beyond surface-level observations. The band’s lack of lyrical insight, however, is more than made up for with the steady, professional methods they use to evoke complex emotions through sound. The thrill and excitement of the past may be difficult to recapture, but Delorean comes as close as anyone can to doing just that on Muzik while discovering some new avenues to explore along the way. As it turns out, you can go back to the past in order to find your future.

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