[4 May 2009]
The cover art for Worldwild shows two backpackers venturing off for a hike into the mountains under some demented, digitally manipulated rainbow. The band claims the album (and the artwork, I imagine) signifies a spiritual journey sparked by a weekend in northern Pennsylvania. But fans of the band could just as well see Pterodactyl’s progression from their first album of slash-and-burn noise punk to the more well-honed, pulsating, psychedelic nature of Worldwild. The album is a bit of a departure from their norm: a manic, tribal, even ethereal, experience. The band seemed safely ensconced in their Brooklyn milieu, but now these Oberlin alums are on a strange trip. I hope they’ve packed enough trail mix for the ride.
Since the band released their debut, bassist Zach Lehrhoff has been moonlighting with Brooklyn noisenicks Knyfe Hyts, leaving a trail of abrasive noise from Greenpoint to Bushwick. So one might expect a more boisterous sophmore tome. But guitarist Joe Kremer seems to have lead the group down some earthy territory, opting for subtle layers instead of harsh dissonance. Worldwild recalls the rhythms of Can, the resounding collisions of Boredoms, even the Liars mystic drum patters. The album flies by in under 37 minutes, but the effort is stunningly cohesive, making seamless transitions from track to track, marching in lock step to some innate sense of pounding rhythm and boiling blood.
The album begins with “Rising and Shining”, a trippy intro with angular guitar notes and soothing vocal harmonies. The song is juxtaposed by the mathy guitar riffs of “First Daze”, which slowly eases into a crescendo of drums that completely engulf the song. The dance-oriented “February” begins with a tribal beat accompanied by shimmering guitars and some perfectly placed lyrics. “My heart keeps beating like a metronome,” Kremer shouts just as the infectious beat kicks in. It’s a definite party-starter, the clarion call to signal an impending psychedelic freak-out. What sweaty loft parties are all about.
A few tracks later we’re brought back to atmospherics again, this time the instrumental variety of “Easy Pieces”. The constrasts may be stark, but the divergence isn’t awkward. It’s a push-and-pull which exists throughout this effort, a calm zen-like acceptance of a more cerebral approach to pounding away at the instruments. “Alex” has some soft conga playing falsetto, as does the soft methodical chugging of “Lawrence”. The vocals on these tracks echo subdued chants and howls, nothing like the abrasive screams some of their Brooklyn brethren exhibit. “No Sugar” has similarities with Women’s “Woodbine” from that band’s stunning 2008 record, those similarities end though when the relentless drums creep up on you.
In under three minutes “December” sails gently on a singular guitar riff, easing into the closing track “One With Everyone”. That song brings us in for the crash landing with a pummel-and-squall combo, ending this adrenaline-fueled effort. Although the adventure is short-lived, there is an almost narrative structure to this release. Concept albums are such staid contraptions, and I wouldn’t saddle this group with such a loaded designation. But there are themes that run throughout. There’s an almost optimistic tone, a loudness that relies more on soft edges. The falsetto harmonies, of course, play a large part. However, every note here adds a pixel to that spastic rainbow which adorns the cover. Pterodactyl walked into the wilderness and arrived at their destination, a mystical place called Worldwild.