Milwaukee’s Pele tends to be lumped into a “post-rock” categorization with H.I.M., Isotope 217, Gastr del Sol, and Trans Am (many of whom also happen to be Midwestern)—a grouping of which I’m not particularly fond and a genre description which I don’t find particularly useful either. For the best “post-rock” (Tortoise, Windy & Carl, Rachel’s, Labradford) acts don’t sound anything like one another and so, in some sense, Pele fits better within that latter inapt grouping in that they are terribly inventive, highly listenable and quite engaging.
Realize It is the CD edition of Pele’s now out-of-print 12”. The release serves as a bridge between records and exhibits Pele’s sharp improv skills over the course of two lengthy tracks. Although Pele has undergone some lineup changes over their four year history, the band has now stabilized as a trio consisting of founding members Chris Rosenau (guitars) and Jon Mueller (drums) along with Matt Tennessen (bass).
On the title track, the trio creates a sound that is indeed improvisational but never seems out of control—to the contrary, even the most dramatic shifts hold together under well-composed melody. Rosenau’s guitar starts with minimal percussion backing for a light jazz warm-up, but Tennesson’s free-flowing bass takes a fair amount of control and the guitars become more vibrant and sunny. The percussion and keyboards dance the song ahead in more hurried fashion as the guitar shifts shapes again to add more resonance to the pace. Yet, the guitars drop unexpectedly for Mueller’s impromptu jam before re-entering, refocused and tenderly plucked. Even in its most sparse concluding minutes, Realize It remains thrilling.
“Gauzeblaze” begins as a more haunting, less catchy composition, the studio’s creations initially winning out over the live feel of the title track. However, Mueller’s percussion slowly gains life even as the keyboard melody remains lush, foreshadowing the fullness of Pele which only unfolds ten minutes into the track. When the polyphonic elements combine, Pele’s sound is more orchestral, an even greater departure from the minimal rock roots which hold Realize It in place.
// Notes from the Road
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