Music Reviews

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Artist: PAS (@)
Title: Flanked By Women And Pumpkins
Format: CD
Label: Alrealon Musique (@)
Distributor: Plastic Head
Rated: *****
From subterranean corridors to ghostly '50s living rooms, NY 5-piece (and guests) PAS take you for an odd, auditory journey. Described by spokesperson Robert L. Pepper as "more soundscapes than "songs" in the traditional sense," there is still a dystopian sci-fi vibe that makes for a coherent listen.

Employing a battery of traditional band instruments - guitar, bass, drums, keys, trumpets, and percussion - PAS then illuminates these grooves with sonic bric-a-brac - found sounds, field recordings, and countless synthesizers. PAS flirt with atonal jazz, sound collage, doom metal, and '80s horror movie music during its sixty-minute duration. What could have been a stylistic clusterfuck ends up instead as an engaging auditory hallucination; a streak through the collective HORRORSHOW id of its creators. Don't get me wrong, this record is not cloaked in shadows and soaked in gore. If anything, its more polished chrome and burning red neon than cobwebs and candles.

The band claims that 'Flanked By Women And Pumpkins,' conceived during a tour of Poland in 2011, is "uncommercial". "There are no clearly defined melodies, no structural landmarks that give you any sense of traditional anchor," says Robert L. Pepper. The thing they may not realize is that many of us have spent the last 10 years blowing the dust out of our Eustachian canals with krautrock, harsh noise, drones, and field recordings. I have found, after repeated investigations, that 'FBWAP' falls nicely in line with the current Zeitgeist. Anybody that gets off on the endless grooves of classic cosmische jams, retro-futuristic techno, or John Carpenter-esque synthesizer scores, will find much meat on this bone.

I was all primed to hate this record, initially turned off by the glossy cardboard packaging, but the initial warm bass pulse of 'Electric Rain On Adams Bridge' seduced me. It comes off like a techno record, before degenerating into noisy crackling, then sluicing through some disembodied jazz. Its not as incoherent as it sounds; there is a universal pulse to this record. Its got a groove. It worked its way into my kitchen CD player for a week, before moving onto my headphones, making my trips to the bank and the shoestore far more futuristic and abstract.

'Flanked By Women And Pumpkins' was produced and mastered by Robert L. Pepper, dispelling the myth that a musician can't mix and master their own work. He has a deft touch; the recordings are full and well-rounded, and help to distinguish this record from the legions of bland noise imitators. Every sonic element is glowingly rendered in spacious reverb; all the pieces work as a whole. There are no jarring changes in volume, surprising considering the varied genres and instrumentation. The spell is never broken, and the listener is treated to 12 surreal, walking dreamscapes.

Purveyors of art-house classicism and bored-room jazz, take note. There may be clues here as to how 'high-brow' 20th-century Avant-Garde techniques can come together with current DIY-sweaty basement experimentation.

Uncommercial, my left ear. Go buy this.




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