October 6, 2011

Delayed Reaction: Pure X :: Pleasure

Have you ever played a wah-wah pedal? The pedal moves the peak response of a filter up and down in frequency, as if opening and closing a doorway between low and high tones as they travel and evolve to and from in waves of distortion. I think of the wah-wah as a bit like the shutter of a camera, as everything centers on a constantly changing measure of light and the effect it has on a landscape, or in this case, the soundscape. That’s the magic of Pure X’s Pleasure: through a dark mess of tones and ominous layers of distortion, there’s a bright wandering sliver of light. That light’s pop music: deeply melodic hooks buried underneath a sea of blown-out guitars and cavernous dark swirls of tone, that through extreme levels of contrast, shine all the more brilliantly.

I remember an interview where someone once marveled how Tom Petty could write albums worth of classic material with just three or four basic chords. On Pleasure, Austin's Pure X similarly use simplicity and repetition to transform a limited selection of ingredients—gain-heavy shoegazey ripples of guitar, deeply-toned bass lines, and steady lifeboat-in-a-storm drumming—into extraordinarily dynamic elements, where here, mood, texture, and a slowly evolving sense of time are emphasized over more standard pop elements like key changes and verse-chorus structures.

While Nate Grace's reverb-coated howls and hushed words propel this record towards truly classic territory, at its heart, Pleasure is really a guitar album. Recorded completely live, the guitar play is unhurried, natural, and very much alive at every turn, rising into one song like a cool incoming tide and splashing about in the white wash of waves in the next. Though incredibly engrossing and instantaneously re-playable, this Austin trio's debut long-player can't be properly digested in a quick or even single listen. Pleasure is a lingering affair: a 10-song 37-minute atmospheric trip into the clouds, space, and beyond, where colors appear most vibrant the third and fourth time around, often when you're half-paying attention, lost in the music, and lost in your own daydreams. It's taken me a couple months to come around, but Pleasure may just be the best record I've heard in 2011.

Buy the the vinyl from Acephale Records. First pressing is sold out, second pressing is limited to 500 copies.

Pure X - "Dry Ice" (from Pleasure)
Pure X - "Twisted Mirror" (from Pleasure)

Pure X

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