Album Review: PAUW – Macrocosm Microcosm

2015 has been a very good year for Dutch psychedelic quartet PAUW. Having finished 2014 as the most booked band of the annual Popronde, Brian Pots and his band got straight to work on their debut album. Said album, Macrocosm Microcosm, has finally been released today and spans nine songs filled with magical psychedelia. Read on for our full review.

The album opens on the ethereal Memories, which introduces itself by means of a hypnotic riff akin to the likes of Temples and Toy. “Lights shining bright at the other side” sings frontman Brian Pots, with keyboardist Kees Braam occasionally underpinning his vocals with identical synth lines. The chorus is equal parts hypnotic, woozy and catchy, ensuring that the album is given a memorable start. At just over three and a half minutes, Memories is the co-shortest song on the album; however, it’s filled to the rafters with melody and memorable moments. The longer Today Never Ends follows, featuring an opening drum roll and fuzzy, groove-laden bass courtesy of Rens Ottink and Eszl du Vois, respectively. The pace during the verse is slower than on Memories, with Pots taking you on a mesmerising journey through space and time. “We will rise with the sun” sings the floppy haired frontman, his vocal tone evoking spirits from the 1960s with effortless ease. If this song doesn’t want to make you undertake a shamanic ritual as the sun rises in the east, then we’re not sure what will. Kees Braam’s synth melody roughly halfway is extremely vibrant and hypnotic, with it underpinned by an extremely tight rhythm section. Visions goes on to make use of brief ambient noise in the intro, before leading into a very Temples-esque melody. Handclaps feature every now and then, with the backbone of the verse provided by Braam, Ottink and du Vois. Pots’ vocals are
very much outstanding throughout the whole album, with his woozy tone carrying every song from start to finish. His band, on the other hand, are equally outstanding, with this musical skill best demonstrated on the pulsating Glare. Du Vois’ more distorted bassline and Ottink’s upbeat drums are held together by a flute-esque melody courtesy of Braam, all of it nicely underpinning Pots’ jangly guitar stabs. “Can you see what’s across the field?” asks Pots, continuing, “That’s where your thoughts and your dreams are concealed”. An extremely fuzzy guitar riff section subsequently ensues, encompassing bucketloads of ethereal hypnotism and moments almost reminiscent of (yet again) Temples, in particular the early B-Side Ankh.

PAUW at Lowlands Festival 2015. © Jack Parker & All Things Loud

The album’s halfway point is reached during Intents, another slow-burning track with a powerful melody line. During the first verse, Pots’ guitar stabs the listener’s ears briefly, before Braam’s upbeat synths make an entry. The chorus is, once again, very anthemic and catchy, only filling the listener’s mind with happy thoughts. “All that’s lost can be found” sings Pots – and we definitely believe him. Early single Shambhala follows, having been stretched out to span almost seven whole minutes. The opening melody is still one of the largest and most exciting on the album, making use of what sounds like a faint accompanying sitar in the background. This is the kind of song that would’ve made crowds go wild at the original Woodstock Festival, and that isn’t without good reason. As the melody returns throughout the track (it replaces any chorus), it sounds like it can only get bigger and better. Live, Shambhala is an absolute belter of a track, its power only reinforced by an extremely exciting studio version. Pots’ vocals here are hazier than before, having been laced in hints of echo and reverb. Whereas the single version of the track usually ends just before four minutes in, the album version features three extra minutes of hypnotic madness. Braam’s flushed synths and Ottink’s scattered percussion moments make way for a Tame Impala-esque outro which is spearheaded by a humongous, fuzzy riff. It leads into Abyss’ eerie intro, one which consists of weird background noise and the distant sound of a Fuzz Factory spiralling back and forth. This all lasts just under a minute, with the instruments (in particular the drums) all slowly bubbling up before entering the frame. This opening minute may have been pure background noise, but it’s exciting enough to keep you listening. At one point, all slowness is thrown out the window and a huge, bombastic riff sets the scene for the next four and a half minutes. Pots’ vocals are underpinned by a fast bassline and tinkling percussion, before the track flitters between fast-paced mid-sections and woozy breakdowns. “When the days turn into night, the sun has never shone so bright” declares Pots, with everything building up behind him. Abyss is one of the most intriguing songs on Macrocosm Microcosm, spiralling in and out of melody-laden consciousness and doing its best to alter the listener’s mindset.

Rens Ottink at Lowlands Festival 2015. © Jack Parker & All Things Loud

Penultimate track High Tide makes use of an acoustic guitar during the intro, before the verse remains upbeat and pulsates through space and time. As per usual, the vocals are catchy and anthemic, with the rest of the band underpinning frontman Pots effortlessly. The acoustic guitar appears throughout the track and glues different sections of the song to one another, before Pots encourages you to “walk into the unknown”. His voice is so serene and ethereal that we’re almost inclined to do it; however, we’re too drawn in by the music to even muster the effort to stand up. High Tide features a massive outro filled with riffs and fuzziness, leading into album closer Glare Pt. 2. At 7:39, it’s the longest and most drawn-out song (read: journey) on the album. Braam’s opening melody is once again accompanied by weird background noise which spans everything from animal sounds to fuzzy sound bites. Pots’ echoed vocal controls the first verse, before the rest of the band slowly join in. It’s an extremely melody centric song, something Braam deserves a lot of credit for. Just before the three minute mark, everything comes to a sudden halt and transforms into what sounds like an LSD-infused funeral march. This subsequently transforms once more into a hands-in-the-air instrumental section laced with euphoria. Can the song become any bigger? Yes, it can. By this point, Pots’ fuzzy guitar riff has also joined in and added another eerie aspect to proceedings. It sounds almost like Brian May took a whole lot of drugs and pulled his most hypnotic solo out of the bag. This goes on for a while, only getting bigger, better and even more emotional. Once the song eventually does come to end (by means of more eerie background noises), you’re left in an absolute daze which will likely remain for days on end. PAUW have made what is by far one of the best psychedelic albums of the year, and they’re only just getting started.


FOR FANS OF: Temples, Tame Impala, Pond

Macrocosm Microcosm can be streamed here. Listen to Shambhala below.