The cosmic constellations that make up Pavo Pavo appear to be diminishing. To all intents and purposes, they seem to have downsized from a quintet to a duo since their debut release, 2006's 'Young Narrator In The Breakers'.
Now, they are ostensibly defined by core members Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg. If the other three are indeed still present, they have a low profile.
The couple both studied music at Yale University and met while playing in the same string quartet. As collaborators they apply their classical training to synth-driven baroque pop music.
Despite first impressions to the contrary, reports are all in the Hill-Bagg household is not rosy. No secret is made of the fact that during the recording of this record the two were in the process of separating, at least as romantic partners.
Frankly, it's initially hard to identify this as a break-up album. The harmonies still sound, well, harmonious. Significantly, however, the title track is the album’s sole co-write and ambiguous lines like "I realize love is to see every side of you / but mon cheri I'm designed to be unsatisfied" could be construed as speaking of the struggle to find any common ground.
Equally, Close To Your Ego could be read as being about the difficulty of dealing with intimacy in a relationship. The title of this song brings to mind The Beach Boys' 'Hang On To Your Ego' and so it comes as no surprise when Hill comments: “The beach is an image that keeps coming back to us – the edge of the world, with the possibility of exiting it”. On The Other Half a Pet Sounds vibe is also evident in the meticulously sunny arrangements.
Yet the cover photograph by Natalie O’Moore depicts the two former lovers posing on a beach (where else?) and seems designed to emphasize the sense of distance between them rather than togetherness.
None of the eleven tracks top 4 minutes and the relative brevity of the album means that there's a lack of flow, summed up by the rapid fade out of 100 Years.
I'm usually a sucker for this kind of hazy Beach House style psych-pop but, as with their debut, I find it hard to be drawn into the Pavo Pavo world.
Something about their image and music strikes me as contrived and overly mannered. The video for the track Mystery Hour tries too hard to be weird and Hill & Bagg come across like a hipster Sonny & Cher.