The whole indie/electronica fusion genre is much like any other - a few pioneers, a few bands are able to replicate the sound with their own twist, a few bands who successfully tweak different elements, and a whole lot of crap. Seeing as this particular genre has been riding a rather large wave of popularity over the last decade, it's unsurprising that the flow of imitators and poor purveyors of the style has taken some time to slow down, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating. Case in point, Delphic. Reviews of their debut, Acolyte, in both NME and BBC Music immediately heralded it as the first great album of the year, which gives the impression that Delphic have some interesting take on their genre. Sadly, they don't, and the baffling hype only serves to make their debut disappointing as well as unimpressive. Some might say that Delphic are merely a victim of the hype machine, lavished with positive BBC press on the strength of a few singles, well before the debut came out. That may well be, but it overlooks the simple fact that Delphic was never that good to begin with.
Top producer Ewan Pearson handles production duties, and he does give Acolyte a crisp and clear sound, but there's nothing he can do for the overall lack of imagination here. Even the songs that start out promising are crushed under the weight of their own mediocre ideas. Doubt's compelling beginning is about all it has to offer, with both plain verses and choruses following, and a quiet ending that ultimately renders the strong opening forgettable. Halcyon sounds decent enough at first, attempting to basically put a generic Abercrombie & Fitch pseudo-trance background behind a highly charged indie song. An interesting idea, but they get carried away with the layering, and end up making a jumbled mess of the song halfway through. Submission is a decent track, or rather has a decent verse - it sounds kind of like a so-so Duran Duran song, but so-so Duran Duran is gold here - but no real song to back it. The chorus has a great, warm burst of synths and guitar, but that's all it is, a burst. The chorus is listening to a very pleasant sound, and then listening to it fade. That's it. Then a cheesy guitar solo that would fit in uncomfortably well on the soundtrack of a soap opera, then a series of random effects, and then the song ends. The best song on this album, and the reason is a few disjointed segments that sound nice, backed by absolutely nothing.
Sounds cool, right?
The entire dance aspect of the album is completely watered down, which makes songs like the opening Clarion Call and the meandering, needlessly long title track sound utterly anemic. The latter especially goes nowhere at all, which would be fine for a song with texture, or maybe even an actual MELODY, but it has neither, and Acolyte ends up as little more than a needless segue between the first and second halves of the album. Singles Counterpoint and This Momentary suffer from similar problems - all attempted style, very little actual substance, particularly the former. Counterpoint drags its minimal hooks on for far too long, with a trance backdrop that is too simple to stand up to all the repetition it receives, and it could have very easily been cut in half and had the same effect. Closer Remain has a decent beginning to boast, but little else. It's the defining characteristic of the few moments on this album that don't sound contrived or uninspired - a decent idea that never gets extrapolated upon, and ends up poorly executed.
As background music, Acolyte isn't bad. It's not so much that it's bad so much that it doesn't really do anything. There are decent (though hardly original) ideas here, but even with Pearson's production, the execution falls completely flat. The result is an at best average album that would have been equally forgettable with or without overhype.