Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pfarmers: "Gunnera" (album review)

What happens when you take members of Menomena, David Byrne's band, and The National and slam them together for a record?  You get Pfarmers and their forthcoming album Gunnera (out May 12th).

Right off the bat it's evident that the group is interested in pushing boundaries and toying with sounds rather than penning tight pop singles.  That probably comes as no surprise.

Things get off to a pretty rocky start with the 7-minute slog "Benthos".  If you like glacially-paced tracks that sound like whale calls, then this is for you.  Otherwise, save your time and skip it.

A heavy TV On The Radio influence makes its presence known just before the moody "You Shall Know The Spirit" crests.  That returns on the nearly 9-minute closer "Promised Land", which even includes

Owing to the Bryne connection, "El Dorado" sounds like someone has thrown a heavy wool blanket on top of a speaker that's pumping out modernized Talking Heads.

The standout "The Ol' River Gang" slathers it on thick, with layer upon layer of sonic elements that will take you many many listens to peel back.  It is a claustrophobic track (in a good way) that leaves no gaps for the listener.

The group have a playful side too.  "Work For Me" is like someone taking razor blades to balloons then feeding the resulting noise through some wonky effects.  "How To Build a Tube" is the hallucinogenic version of the kid's t.v. show soundtrack.

As diverse and complex as this album is, I doubt that it will compel very many people to give it repeat listenings.

Best tracks: "The Ol' River Gang", "You Shall Know The Spirit"

Track listing for Gunnera:
  • Benthos
  • You Shall Know The Spirit
  • Work For Me
  • El Dorado
  • The Ol' River Gang
  • How To Build a Tube
  • Promised Land

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