[20 February 2014]
Chicago quartet Bottomless Pit is among the best bands that the United States has to offer currently, but few arrive to the Bottomless Pit party without carnal knowledge of Silkworm, the Windy City by way of Missoula and Seattle trio that spawned a rabid following in the latter part of the last century. Before being tragically derailed by the shocking car accident that killed their drummer and two other friends almost a decade ago, Silkworm tenured on Matador and Touch and Go Records for much of their existence. Frankly, they sounded like it, sporting quality songwriting and angular guitar that made the most of a powerhouse rhythm section. The tragic death of drummer Michael Dahlquist in July 2005 put Silkworm to rest (see the exceptional SKWM doc Couldn’t You Wait), but remaining members Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett moved forward, founding Bottomless Pit later that year.
Bottomless Pit sallied forth as a four-member franchise, adding ex-Seam drummer Chris Manfrin and bassist Brian Orchard (.22) to man the engine room. While Midgett and Cohen continued to share vocal and songwriting duties, the new endeavor was most notable sonically for Midgett having moved from the bass to baritone guitar. Late period Silkworm featured keyboards from Biznono Kadane (Bedhead), but the baritone guitar is definitely the secret weapon for Bottomless Pit. The jagged sonority of low guitar dovetails nicely with the bass, adding delicious contrast to the jagged Cohen guitar parts. Two full-length releases sandwiched an EP, coming via Garden State transplant Jon Solomon (ex-My Pal God Records) and his new indie label Comedy Minus One. The recordings struck a chord with the indie rock cognoscenti. Touring was scant, but the foursome was able to tour intermittently, scoring high profile slots at ATP and various Shellac curated endeavors that kept them in the public eye.
Personal and professional affairs keep Bottomless Pit active in fits and starts, but sessions with Steve Albini commenced in Chicago early last year for album number three. The result is an exceptional recording that lives up to its name: beyond the stellar music Shade Perennial has the best correlation of cover art and music therein of any band I’ve seen in recent history. Sporting latticed metal sculptures of horses caught against grey skies, the image embodies the Bottomless Pit aesthetic perfectly. Loping tempos and cryptic sonorous vocals mesh with jaggedly beautiful washes of sound, fostering auditory earworms that will burrow Wrath of Khan-style into your brain.
The eight songs on Shade Perennial pass in cinematically epic fashion over a mere half-hour, averaging three minutes or so, yet seemingly much more sprawling in scope. Longer pieces bookend the record, the opening Fleece setting the scene with a stark baritone guitar figure before the band soars into motion. A half-dozen short sharp shocks follow before the closing “Felt a Little Left” sears the proceedings to a close. Featuring an extended guitar coda from Cohen that hearkens back to classic Silkworm workouts like Slow Burn, the closer gets high marks for the burn factor. “Sacred Trench” gets the nod for the best of the eight tracks here, but whether you come for the music, lyrics or both, Bottomless Pit and Shade Perennial do not disappoint.