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PAS - Flanked By Women and Pumpkins [Alrealon Musique - 2012]

PAS is an avant-garde collective named for the French negatory syllable.  Their album is hilariously titled "Flanked By Women and Pumpkins".  It contains 12 lo-fi atmospheric sketches averaging 5 minutes in length.  Each track tends to stay in the same sonic realm for its duration, and though the tracks utilize different sound sources, most of the tones used are smeared, dissonant and murky.

The results are highly hit and miss.  There are great successes, such as the brilliant intro,  with a sample describing the shadows lengthening, followed by an abrupt cut to noisy footsteps through brush.  However, later in the same track and through to the following tracks, the immediacy of this is contrasted with sluggish and directionless "psychedelic" instrumental jams, dominated by swampy phasing guitar effects. 

During these moments this feels very much like a bedroom recording, and I find it lacking in momentum.  Rather than the kind of hypnotic eveness drone should have, the music has a noodling, unfocused quality.  There is no percussion or rhythm to speak of, and the guitar feels lost without any kind of tonal or rhythmic anchor.  The guitarist can be heard attempting emotive bluesy licks or doom metal ominousness, but the heavy delay interferes with his rhythm, and the effect is quite incoherent.

"Inner Ear Echo Imbalance" is the next worthwhile track, exploring similar territory as vintage Zoviet France with some primitive sounding percussion in cheap handheld tape recorder fidelity.  Here the guitar feedback is more fluid, eerie, alien and blended.  The melancholy picked riffs the guitarist inserts on this track still seem to stick out in a rough and awkward way in the mix, both for their timbre and rhythmic inaccuracy, and I come to the conclusion that the album is worse for being as lo-fi as it is.

"Volker Goes to Spain" enters a deeper realm of frequencies and crosses into doom metal territory, and I appreciate the Lustmord-esque vertigo feeling induced by the track, like watching the factories of hell pump out horror after horror.   Unfortunately, the sound of the downtuned guitar has an odd digital ring to it which I find unpleasant.

"Electron Accelerator" is one I find difficult to tolerate, due to the incessent skipping and repetition of a sample of a scientist-like voice repeating "This is an electron accelerator-".  With this already being the title of the track, this is just obnoxious and obvious.  It was difficult to pay attention to the surrounding noise textures.  There are other tracks where repeating samples become an issue as well, such as "Incredible Day for Natives", in which we hear a voice repeat "The powers of nature".  This repetition does not seem to be executed in an intentional or ritualistic way, rather carelessly or lazily.

My favorite piece of the 12 is "Sonic Sleighride Through Coalmines".  Aside from having a great name, it captures my attention with a white-washed squeaking, slinking analog synthesizer sound, an odd long loop (that could be a tape loop).  There's all manner of washed out analog degradation and hiss, and unpredictable percolating melodic bubbling.

In conclusion, there are a few mild successes on "Flanked By Women and Pumpkins", but also many directionless tracks of sound environments I have heard before, and executed with more focus.  In general I find the guitar playing, which appears often, to be uninspired.  Far from living up to the humor of its title, this is a serious, gloomy, and ultimately boring album that leaves me questioning the intention behind it

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Josh Landry
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