Pas Musique - Abandoned Bird Egg [Alrealon Musique ý - 2013]
French "non-music" jam band Pas (or Pas Musique, as they labeled for this release) have returned this year with another full length of their murky sound sketches, "Abandoned Bird Egg". Sounding something like a noodly, playful garage band derivation of Zoviet France (the band thanks Robin Storey in the liner notes) and Throbbing Gristle, they possess little of the mystique of either band, but do deliver scattered moments of spontaneous amplifier grit and textural curiosity.
I was not a fan of the previous album, "Flanked by Women and Pumpkins", thinking its ashy, phased out sound environments a bit too muddy, unengaging and similar to the output of your average stoned high school guitarist's chain of effects pedals. Lack of direction is also a problem on this album: the band seems to choose a sonic palette for each song, and flail aimlessly within that framework for the duration of the track. This format is borrowed from krautrock groups or Throbbing Gristle, in which a 'motorik' drum machine pulse would repeat ad infinitum, allowing the entire band to play noise solos at once. Where more skilled groups manage to conjure storms of swelling energy from beneath the rhythm, with this group the elements never quite cohere; no one seems to be playing together and the effect is far too nebulous.
In the case of the incessant distorted guitar playing, I feel like I'm listening to a first year guitarist solo endlessly, struggling to find the blues they have spent too little time with. There's nothing particularly 'avant garde' about the style; it sounds like an attempt at pentatonic that is riddled with mistakes. While I'm all for experimentalism in music, as well as atonality, noise improvisation, et cetera, I do think that in most cases, a certain level of skill is required to express the ideas that come to the mind the way they're meant to be heard. Regardless of skill, there's simply a lack of focus or momentum on part of the performers. Rather than listen to this, I would encourage anyone to organize an experimental bedroom jam themselves.
As with the previous album, there's something formulaic and obvious about a lot of the music here. The track "Modern Witchcraft" contains a sample that states "this is modern witchcraft" and female "aaaahh"s and chanting which one might stereotypically associate with 'witches'. The track "Something Indescribable" repeatedly employs a sample saying "I found a way of life that was indescribable". Part of the charm of groups like Zoviet France was their ambiguity; never would have they stooped to such obviousness.
A "noise" jam band like this is supposed to make up for lack of conventional musicianship with atmosphere and fierce intent, and as this group has neither, I feel this album is no more a success than was their previous. I can't recommend this album to anyone, there are many superior groups new and old. Go and listen to some Zoviet France, O Yuki Conjugate, Wolf Eyes, Prurient, et cetera.Josh Landry