Right from the start, Preoccupations seemed sick of naming their music. After three (if you include their previous monikers Women and Vietcong) self-titled albums, here they are with the no-nonsense post-album-name New Material. While many bands take from vaguely similar post-punk influences - Preoccupations have, over their first two albums, carved themselves out a rather distinct sound. Angry, swallowing and hazy, they’ve reeked of an industrial, noise and heavy Joy Division influence; and been notably successful in how their music drops its listener into a rich, dystopic, pit-like atmosphere.

New Material marks a noted change from all that. Clearer and more synth-centric, many tracks heavily rely on hollow, industrial drumming instead of textural drone. It’s a sound that, on the surface, feels relatively far from that of their previous records. Matt Flegel’s lyrics are less ominous, and some of it feels even danceable (in a grotesque, Tetsuo The Iron Man kind of way). Industrial synth pop seems to be much of their end game on New Material; with rattling drums, loudly sparse instrumentation and chaotic structures featuring prominently.

In many ways Preoccupations succeed in transitioning into this new sound. ‘Disarray’, with its vibes of 1990s Depeche Mode, is one of their most pop-sensible and memorable numbers. Sky-high synths, a lightly echoing chorus from Flegel and a switch up in drumming keep it interesting and fresh. Similarly, ‘Antidote’ impresses with its heavily grooved bass and repetitive, primitive drums; and on the opener ‘Espionage’, Preoccupations even dare to offer a shoutable chorus.

What keeps me skeptical of New Material are its deeper cuts. In general, song structures often revolve around a repeated drum beat and synth melody that lasts the entirety of the track. Tracks are notably chaotic. Rather than ambitious song progression such as that of ‘Memory’ on the previous record, New Material’s songs are messier with more crowded instrumentation (‘Compliance’ the notable exception). Furthermore, it seems that when Preoccupations took to following the synth-poppier side of things, they omitted the hooks and melodies that defined the genre. The album suffers from tracks not defining themselves enough, thus leaving little impression on the listener.

While Preoccupations very much felt like the extended exploration of a certain sound, New Material feels less so. In this respect, it feels more incomplete than inadequate. Tracks seem assembled not into one similarly styled piece but many, distinctly separate ones. It’s more a compilation of explorative forays into a new sound than a complete work best heard all at once. Furthermore, some tracks seem less committed to the band’s sonic progression. ‘Manipulation’ and ‘Doubt’, though good tracks, could easily have been lifted straight off of their previous record, while ‘Compliance’ stands completely alien as the album’s closer.

However, none of the tracks on New Material could fit any such textbook definition of "bad". It’s stylistically inconsistent and at times bafflingly chaotic, but each track has a certain quality that defines Preoccupations as a willingly evolutionary band. New Material may seem like a step backwards overall, but it’s still promising – feeling like a more hesitant commitment to change than the forthright statement they intended.