Galvanized by their shared passion for British post-punk and 80s Manchester bands, PYYRAMIDS’ debut album, Brightest Darkest Day drips with these aforementioned influences but instead of being a facsimile of what came before, the duo made up of Tim Nordwind (OK GO) and Drea Smith (He Say/She Say) have taken the brooding shadows of Joy Division and the noir-pop of The Smiths, whizzed it up, stretch it out and produced a record of smoldering charm.
With such dark musical touchpoints it would be easy to assume the duo’s debut LP would be a stark, impenetrable effort, something that shirks at the human touch and is at home skulking around, away from the gaze of its peers. But like the album title suggests Brightest Darkest Day is a compelling juxtaposition of light and shade. It could be the sultry coo from Smith that shines a light into the darkness or it could be the low slung bass thrums that invoke a luminous glow amongst the fog but what is certain, is that combined, musically and vocally PYYRAMIDS make the most incandescent, stark documents.
Nordwind and Smith know how to mix up the delivery too, Brightest Darkest Day is buoyed by an arsenal of tracks that vary in dynamic and shift effortlessly within their own lifespan. ‘Do You Think You’re Enough’ pushes the punk side of the duo with a fuzzed up bassline and driving drum beats which then collides with a serrated riff, and without warning the tune drops into a solitary acoustic strum which portrays a sparseness after the upfront racket just spewed out. ‘Paper Doll’ is forged from a similar mould but instead of being a song of two halves, this number employs the quiet/loud gear changes from sedate verses to anthemic raucous choruses.
When it comes to the post-punk that helped bond our pair, this can be heard in the taught rhythms found on ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ which struts and shakes with pounding drum beats, ‘Don’t Go’ shimmies with Smith’s laidback croon that floats smoothly from her mouth as does the loose drum rolls and sparse percussion stabs which accompany the vocalist. Something that post-punk displayed is the use of silence and space; PYYRAMIDS have channeled this into ‘Time’, a skeletal song constructed around the loose framework of a piano and Smith’s lonesome voice. There are moments where a lacerated guitar riff growls or a layer of percussion rattles across the keys but fundamentally this is where the twosome are at their most spectral. ‘Invisible Scream’ endorses a smaller slant but where ‘Time’ is stripped bare, this missive grows new layers of skin with every surging wall of progressive noise that roars into a thrilling crescendo.
PYYRAMIDS aren’t shy when it comes to what has inspired them to create Brightest Darkest Day and with their influences brandished heavily on their sleeves that have offered up a record that shines with pop lushness but echoes with elusive cool.
An album entitled RAR, with it’s meaning that can either be interpreted as a condition that induces hallucinations from being caught in the snow for too long or the term used for data compression and error recovery. Lyrical themes that depict social, economic struggle that pose questions for religion vs science and fate vs determination. Finally, the creators of this album have been labelled many things, dark punk, geek rage and more recognisably post punk. Welcome ladies and gents to the distorted, tortured world of Dead Wolf Club and their sophomore record, RAR.
Luckily for a record heavy on tough going subject matter, RAR is never a slog; but admittedly it’s not a party either. DWC’s new album is the distilled sound of a frustrated generation tearing itself part whilst starring into the void, uncertain of the future ahead while taking the chance to vent. The London four piece switch from distorted malice to an eerie calm throughout their new LPs lifespan, even during the more low key moments it doesn’t feel like a shockwave of noise isn’t too far away, just to unsettle the equilibrium, ‘Create All’ is a fine example of this.
The social frustration DWC feel is evident across a number of songs on RAR, ‘A Versus E’ places itself in the subdued mould DWC favour when not destroying their instruments. Lyrically vocalist John Othello, proclaims “We are parasites, we are insecure” followed by “I wanna fuck you up”. Musically this might be the quartet at their most restrained but this doesn’t mean the words from Othello’s mouth aren’t confrontational. Opening missive ‘The ABC of Being Stupid’ is pure post punk savagery with squalling guitars and battered drums which coax Othello to yelp “We are broken!!” repeatedly. Equally the band’s vitriol boils over during album closer ‘Bring Down The Banks’ with the frontman yelling in what can only be described as pain during a sheer maelstrom of noise behind him.
Dead Wolf Club can easily shift dynamics, as heard on ‘MBE (Matt’s Big Entrance)’ with the stop-start riff/bass/drum roll combo. But it’s on tracks like MBE where Othello’s vocal is lost amongst the cacophony, maybe this is symbolism for being ignored in a sea of modernity however it feels the frontman’s vocals need turning up a notch. This is a common factor that crops up in the latter part of the record almost as if Othello is being swallowed by his band’s uncompromising racket.
Musically abrasive with lyrics to match, RAR is the sound of a million news feeds being consumed by a legion of hapless people yearning for a resolution that, at this time, doesn’t look hopeful.
Without a pharaoh or treadmill in sight, Tom Norwind of OK GO fame is all set to dispense with an exciting new venture, soon to be known to the world as PYYRAMIDS. Norwind has teamed up with vocalist Drea Smith from electro-popsters He Say/She Say to carve out icy cool missives that have a deep-seated leaning towards 80s Mancunian bands and the first wave of British post-punk acts. This is what kick-started the bond between Norwind and Brea, their collective appreciation towards music that perhaps casts more shadows than light, music with a penchant for the gloomy but with a beating pop heart. The duo worked at their separate homes trading audio snippets that finally have been assembled to populate the twosome’s debut record, Brightest Darkest Day.
To whet the appetite PYYRAMIDS have offered up three nuggets from their first LP on Soundcloud, these tracks go by the names ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, ‘Don’t Go’ and ‘That Ain’t Right’. Each track is remarkably different to the next but Norwind and Smith have laid down such a sonic footprint, each track is a conduit to the next. What links them altogether is the marrying of the organic and the synthetic, as you’ll soon realise PYYRAMIDS are an electronic act with a difference, yes synths whirr and hum but lucid vocals provided by Smith ensure any machine driven instrumentation is assisted by something of a human touch.
‘Smoke and Mirrors’ is progressively magnetic, it begins in a sultry, brooding fashion but soon gathers pace snaring in pounding bass drums and untamed fuzzed up electronics. If you can imagine Joy Division soundtracking Blade Runner and you are almost there, future-retro appeal at its finest. ‘Don’t Go’ takes a post-punk throbbing bassline that is pure elastic and calm pitter-patter drums that forge an atmospheric listen. This is until restrained guitar thrashes upset the serene and inject a little bit of terror into the millpond. The more electronic of the bunch is the pulsing ‘That Ain’t Right’ which boasts an ever present synth line that burbles and chirps while stunted guitar strums weave themselves around Smith’s downplayed coo. On this track PYYRAMIDS demonstrate their pop aesthetic with brooding verses and an illuminating chorus with Smith declaring “I don’t want to break your heart”, which almost sounds like an apology about future heartbreak, with our velvet vocaled temptress playing the part of a mermaid on the rocks using her voice like a siren call.
PYYRAMIDS won’t make you walk like an Egyptian but they are an enchanting discovery and one you’ll want to keep revisiting. Come April be prepared to have the Brightest Darkest Day.
Brightest Darkest Day is out 15th April 2013 (tracklisting below)
1. Brightest, Darkest Day (Intro) 2. Smoke And Mirrors 3. Don’t Go 4. Do You Think You’re Enough? 5. Paper Doll 6. Everyone Says 7. Invisible Scream 8. Time (Interlude) 9. Time 10. That Ain’t Right 11. Nothing I Can Say
We Were Promised So Much – Bands to Watch 2012 – Outfit
Manchester is often heralded for it’s take on alternative dance music, considering it birthed New Order, Manchester knows how to produce melancholic foot shufflers. Just down the road in neighbouring Liverpool, indie dance collective Outfit, tread the same path as the Hacienda torchbearers. Merging together New York house, indie, techno and elements of electronica, this Liverpudlian five piece take the euphoria found on dance floors and turn it on its head to create expansive, broad documents of sound.
Outfit are made up of the communal efforts of Andrew and Nicholas Hunt, Thomas Gorton, Christopher Hutchinson and David Berger. This sextet are set to reclaim the night from the likes of chart bothering collaboration king David Guetta to add a little bit of darkness to the dancefloor.
For a fresh take on all things music....I also write for great music sites - http://www.whiteboardproject.co.uk/ and http://www.northerntransmissions.com/.
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for any review requests.