Not to be confused with the English hardcore act, Vancouver’s version of the Passenger subscribes to a chill electronic vibe that, for a brief moment, delivers Eno-esque sounds; the key word is brief. The album, awkwardly named _| (not sure how you even begin to say that), rotates between electro-spasms and ambient unconsciousness resulting in a sort-of restlessness throughout the ten-song affair.
_| lacks unity, but it makes up for it with some interesting impressions—though you might have to skip the first track to get there. The opening seconds of the album are announced with a lazy but brash synth horn similar to something you might hear in a sci-fi movie about the future filmed in the early ‘70s. Before boredom sets in, “Mr. Similar” presents us with a series of rather random bits, bytes and beat pops before re-connecting with the original theme, which feels a bit worn by the time it makes a reappearance.
The awkward start might otherwise cast a shadow on the rest of the album; however, what follows are two tracks that are in complete contrast to each other, yet represent the best elements of the album.
“Planetarium” is a warm excursion into space travel, with its big square-waves and consistent groove lines making this track very accessible. “Rainy” relieves the crisp synth edges and replaces them with piano sounds subtly blurred together to create a gorgeous, downtrodden tone perfect for commiseration during the rainy season.
The Passenger gives us randomness, danceable moments and ambient musings all in the first three pieces. Unfortunately, this triumvirate continues for the duration of the album and even surfaces in a single track. There are moments on “Shirt” that are reminiscent of Eno’s Music for Airports, which are combined with the classic sound of an Electro Harmonix pedal (or something similar) providing an ultra-fast delay effect. While this is usually a good recipe for ear candy, the song—like the album—loses in its hyperactivity or inability to settle.