Pele: The Nudes

[18 September 2000]

By Devon Powers

The Nudes: ones who are without dress or adornment.

Music without dress: when melody is in its barest essentials, what does it become? What does it sound like? Who does it sound for? Is it music’s cloak—the production, the words, the packaging—that give us something to say about it? And when music is just sound and rhythm, can it be social and cultural, can it tell us something about our time and space that we might not already know, so we might know ourselves better through it?

Maybe Jon Muller, Chris Rosenau, and Matt Tennessen—the Milwaukee-based trio who make up Pele—can answer these questions on their fourth album, The Nudes. The record is a showcase of music void of deliberation—so spontaneous, it sounds as if instruments could jam without human beings attached. Or as if nature itself created music—stars when they burst, rain when it fell, grass when it grew from the earth. In this state, the sheer functioning of sound is a great and awesome thing—bigger than the sum of its parts, with its own motion and will. Pele have created that thing, and their sound is like a living body, breathing and growing and learning.

Each song takes you on a trip through the world as it happens, a blizzard of emotions, a cacophony of the irregular and the everyday. You can hear their music as the soundtrack to a Nova science special—in the way that it can simultaneously fade into the backgroud while acting as the language of something you never anticipated could speak. One after another, their songs are full of momentary blips, reactions, false starts, sinewy follow-throughs. Take “Nude Beach. Pinhole Camera,” a rush of rises and falls, abrupt blats, rambling melody. Or the monotonous driving of “Black Socks,” which like a knowing nod, seems to be waiting for you to believe its truth. It’s hard to believe that something so unadultered could be so complicated. And beautiful.

For music lovers who truly love music, for dreamers who want songs to be both familiar yet ephemeral, for listeners who want to hear light moving, this is for you. Take it as it is—art which will use you and your experience as a conduit for meaning and understanding.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/pele-nudes/