The PhiLL(er)

High Time Cover
Pit Er Pat

High Time
Thrill Jockey Records

The simple guitar line and complex and varied percussion patterns that open the first track on High Time set a template of sorts for what comes over the 45 minutes of the album. The only lyrics to the song are "One, Two; Two, One; One, One," repeated hypnotically, and either as some kind of binary joke that my mathematically-challenged mind won't understand, or to create an undercurrent of apparent (but not real) simplicity to run beneath the percussion. Whatever. It works.

I said template of sorts because most of these songs feature complex percussion and simple guitar or bass lines (there aren't many full chords strummed on this record), but while "ANNO IV:XX" is not, nor is supposed to be, a pop hit, much of the rest of the album employs pop hooks and singing to surprisingly flexible effect. The vocals on "Evacuation Days" are female-led with male backing, and I suppose my lazy critical brain wants to draw a comparison to Blonde Redhead for that reason, but I think the comparison goes a little further, even though it won't take anyone to the next station. Having said that, I'm now fantasizing about a collaboration between Pit Er Pat and Blonde Redhead, like one of those "In the Fishtank" projects that the Dutch label Konkurrent used to do (and maybe still does; I have a long-standing fondness for #5, in which Tortoise and The Ex get together and make magic, including a bunch of yelling about whether someone has combed or not). The connection is one of mood and colormdash;there's obvious experimentation going on here, but it's happening around a structured form of simple and central riffs, and with the effect/intention of creating an overall coherent sound across the album.

"Omen" features a wonderful, deep and warm brass arrangement as well as fluttering flutes and a soft gong at the end. The organ that guides "My Darkers" is accompanied at first by shimmering cymbals, but those cymbals get cut off by a staccato drumming pattern that also sometimes features, among other things, (the same?) cymbals crashing backwards. "Copper Pennies" features a goofball smashing of sampled sounds and falsetto vocals and much more. "The Cairo Shuffle" has more falsetto vocals, a snake dance, oompah-ing rhythm and more, whereas "Creation Stepper" is a Tortoise-esque piece led by xylophones and their friends, and sounds like some kind of Orff-lesson (thank you, elementary school music appreciation class!). The album goes on and on like this: lilting, busy rhythms supported by a seemingly endless supply of expertly-employed noisemakers. It's like some musical magician is standing on a stage, conjuring trick after trick after trick after trick until the audience is so wound up with excitement that kids are gonna start peeing their pants and puking and the adults are so rapt they don't even notice.

In short, this is an album that manages to be fun, engaging, intelligent, experimental and pop all under one roof. For some reason I imagine that roof to be onion-shaped, and beneath it we're sitting on enormous pillows and smoking tobacco from hookahs, or maybe we're having a ridiculously goofy dance party. I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that either.