Archive - With Us Until You're Dead
For all intents and purposes, this album is Archive's second in 16 years, the follow-up to 1996's Londinium. It's not really, though. They've been active since then, but they haven't made so much as a ripple, never mind a splash, in the UK. The rest of their output has gone by almost completely unnoticed here, due to the fact that contractual shenanigans and generally being stonewalled by their label prevented them from being released. If Archive wanted to make a statement, though - and we're sure they did - With Us Until You're Dead was the way to do it. It's an album that is incredibly difficult to pin down, taking a smidgen of their trip-hop roots and mixing it in with prog-rock, post-rock, electronica and symphonic music to create something that is quite often jaw-droppingly beautiful.
It's hard to follow an opening track as majestic as recent single 'Wiped Out', a song which raises the curtain with such flair and dramatic sensibility that it's hard not to be amazed - but that's only the tip of the iceberg. It segues seamlessly into the strangely danceable drum intro to 'Interlace', soon underpinned by squiggly synths and the soaring, theatrical vocals of Holly Martin (who gives us another star turn on the dark and brooding 'Violently') which lift it to new heights. Conceived as one flowing piece of music from start to finish, With Us Until You're Dead nonetheless allows its separate movements to breathe; the stacatto strings and inventive rhythms that drive 'Silent' give it an unexpected air of elegance and help to establish it as one of the album highlights.
Given the turbulent band history (they broke up months after Londinium was released, and have since gone through myriad line-up changes), Archive should not be concerned with commercial success, even if they have enjoyed plenty of it on the continent. The fact that they're still together - though they're a collective more than a band these days, featuring 12 members - should be considered an achievement in itself, but songs as confident as 'Twisting', not to mention the glorious penultimate track 'Damage' suggest that they're sounding better than perhaps ever before. Their latest album is best taken in a single sitting: 56 minutes that come together to form one of the most beautiful albums of the year. Call it what you will: With Us Until You're Dead is a staggering achievement.