It’s been nearly three years since Arcade Fire’s last album ‘The Suburbs’ and anticipation for their next record has been running high for a while. Originally confirmed for a release in September, their fourth record got pushed back to October 29 – a release date the band confirmed via a tweet to a fan.
For the past couple of months strange circular graphics have been appearing in cities around the world. It started at Chicago festival Lollapalooza in July when a drawing appeared, spelling out the word ‘reflektor’. Rumours began to spread that, somehow, the Canadian band were involved but, as more of the images appeared worldwide, they refused to confess to being behind the campaign. Then a mysterious Instagram account called Reflektor posted images with 9pm 9/9 drawn in the same style. Confirming the whole campaign was their handiwork by etching their name above one of the ‘Reflektor’ drawings, the band soon announced new music would indeed be unveiled on that date.
Two snippets of music have since been revealed. The first – a 15 second clip posted to Arcade Fire’s Spotify, under the title ‘9pm/9/9’ – featured a burst of strings with a whirring effect laid over the top. The second came in the form of a 40 second video trailer, sounding much the same as its predecessor save for the addition of some gently padding bongos.
On Saturday, the full track leaked and showed the world that those combined 55 seconds were far from the big picture. Coloured as a part disco, part Talking Heads, part Arcade Fire behemoth, it marks an unexpected new sound in the band’s oeuvre. Though its first precision-hit drum beats sound like they could easily be pulled from ‘The Sprawl’, things soon twist into this fresh new territory of grooves. It’s hard not to pin that on former LCD Soundsystem frontman and ‘Reflektor’ producer James Murphy. Sure, the group could easily have gone down this path themselves but his influence feels too strong here for it to be a mere coincidence. Stretching out over seven and half minutes, the track has the same subtly-but-constantly-morphing nature as much of Murphy’s own material and feels like he’s had much more involvement than just sitting behind a mixing desk twiddling knobs.
And then there’s the rumours of David Bowie’s appearance somewhere on the new album. As ‘Reflektor’ reaches the 4:51 mark a familiar voice creeps in to the background. Could it be the thin white duke? Or just eager ears playing tricks on us, in the vain hope it really is.
Though the track has been floating around online over the weekend, there’s even more exciting things to come. The official unveiling of the single comes tonight at 9pm, with a video directed by Anton Corbijn (who was also behind Nirvana’s video for ‘Heart Shaped Box’), promising to be a visual treat as well as an audio one. And then there’s the album itself, just under two months away. Is ‘Reflektor’ symptomatic of a funk-filled new direction or just a curveball designed to mess with our heads in the run up to the LP’s release. We’ll just have to wait and see.