Shedding light on Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor”

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In 2004, a small band from Canada released an album called “Funeral” on Merge Records. Now, nearly a decade later, Arcade Fire has debuted a new single entitled “Reflektor” off their new album due in stores Oct. 29.

The song, which was released Sept. 9 and features David Bowie, begins with the hauntingly hollow lyrics, “Trapped in a prism, in a prism of light/ Alone in the darkness, darkness of white,” sung by Win Butler, lead singer of the acclaimed band. The album, also entitled “Reflektor,” symbolizes a return to old form as well as an introduction to what the band has been experimenting with in their off time.

Arcade Fire captivated the music scene with their freshness, their lyrical depth, and the sound they worked together to produce. Even today, the band sounds just as good as it did nine-and-a-half years ago, with the message of their music, largely based on politic or social themes, meshing with the musical landscape they procure.

“Reflektor” indicates a notably different path from past albums. The new electronic, dance-themed music is heavy on synths and electronic reverberations that, when combined with the guitars and drums of the song, provide a characteristic edginess. The macabrely bizarre video, which was also released Sept. 9, culminates in a resolutely dark and despondent feeling even with its more upbeat rhythm.

The song is too sleek to be in some ’70s disco club, but the production behind it shows an integration of dance and alternative into a happy medium. The orchestration, as well as the lyrical content, are dark enough to fit with their past albums as well as continue their likening to acts like Springsteen and Neil Young, but for a newer, “hipper” generation.

The palpable angst, notable on tracks like “We Used to Wait,” “Anti-Christ Television Blues” and “Wake Up,” from previous albums makes a return on “Reflektor,” nevertheless, but is redesigned by producer James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem fame. “Suburbs,” released in 2010, had less synths on songs, or when it was used, it was controlled in such a way that the effect was merely to support the overarching instrumentation. “Reflektor” will be a foray into something the band hasn’t focused on often. The merge of their alternative roots with a “new” genre may signify where Arcade Fire intends to continue to go after the album’s release. The hiatus allowed them time to reflect, record and experiment.

Arcade Fire recorded so much music during their time off that “Reflektor” will be a double album. The musical styling of the album was influenced by the band’s downtime in Jamaica and Haiti.

When Butler reflected on the origins of the new album on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio One show, he equated it to a “mash-up of Studio 54 and Haitian voodoo music.”

Even with the new style, the song has received rave reviews, with praise coming from music blogs like Pitchfork, Stereogum and NPR. The guerrilla campaign, along with an interactive video, used to promote the single and subsequently the album, generated an enthusiasm that garnered a buzz greater than the pre-release period for their previous albums.

The video, which works best on Google Chrome, syncs with viewers’ mobile devices and webcams. It portrays a woman’s journey between two worlds as well as her interactions with holographs that show viewers their own reflections.

“Reflektor” doesn’t premiere for another month or so, but the consensus seems to be that Arcade Fire’s merging of old ideas with new ambition will lead to success. They’ve re-engaged fans who have been otherwise entertained and broken out of the mold. Whether the album will act as a reflector, connector or resurrector is purely up to the listener, but the song itself beautifully sets up a new path for a band loved for a genre far different.