It’s hard to ignore Wild Beasts, but it may be even harder to pin them down.

The quartet has formed and regrouped several times over since Hayden Thorpe and Ben Little first met in 2002 at Queen Katherine School in Kendal, England. Marked immediately by soft, almost aquatic vocal harmonies and the dense rhythms of the re-emerging math rock movement, Wild Beasts have carved out a unique pocket for their music. Both romantic and cold, literary and forceful, Wild Beasts are a mercurial band on the verge of releasing Present Tense, their fourth studio album, a pensive collection with an undeniable pulse and subtle, electronic flourishes that feel like the closing hours of a late night and the early-morning bus ride home as the sun rises. Specks of nostalgia creep into barn-burning lead single “Wanderlust.” It, like much of the album, is a slippery song, transmuting partway through to open to a second act of strings, repeated and obscured, as vocalist Tom Fleming sings, “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck,” in his distinctive, open falsetto. There is a certain magic in the alchemy of Wild Beasts’ music. It’s a formula that the band shook up for Present Tense, writing—or rather constructing— the whole album on a computer. “We spent ages programming and piecing individual parts together,” says drummer Chris Talbot. “We had the feeling that anyone in the band could do anything without feeling they had one role to stick to.” The result is every bit as moving, as wild, and as powerful.

Present Tense is out today from Domino. Photography by Klaus Thymann.

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