Now cut down from a trio to a duo, Pit Er Pat carve out a new identity on their minimalistic and European-influenced new album, The Flexible Entertainer.
Although Pit Er Pat have been a band for only six years, it feels like they've been around for at least a decade considering the fact that their discography already consists of three full length albums and half a dozen EP's and seven-inches. When we last heard from them on 2008's High Time, they were a trio living in Chicago. With the loss of founding member Rob Doran, remaining members Fay Davis-Jeffers and Butchy Fuego regrouped and moved to Los Angeles to begin working on their next record.
The Flexible Entertainer represents a new era for the group, one influenced by touring Europe and appearing at the ATP Festival, both of which inspired the minimalist sound and exotic vibe that can be found all over these eight songs. Starting off with the ghostly clanging sounds and repetitive vocal loop on "Intro", it appears that Pit Er Pat don't need a third member to help them make fragile pop songs. Davis-Jeffers and Fuego seem to be doing just fine on their own.
The European influence really comes through on the blippy "Nightroom" with its washes of Euro club synths and post-punk guitars, "Godspot" with its twinkling sound effects and Davis-Jeffers breathy Lykke Li-esque vocals, and on "Summer Rose" with its offbeat percussion and snake-charmer guitars. This is not to say that Pit Er Pat have lost their interest in American music, though, as they clearly prove with the dancey, and surprisingly hip-hop-reminiscent beats on "Water, " as Davis-Jeffers sings the song's title and is backed by a recording of a rapper's hype man saying the title again, too.
Most of The Flexible Entertainer stays in line with Pit Er Pat's minimalist intentions. However, they start to veer off course towards the end of the album with the seven-minute long "Emperor of Charms", which mainly centers around crashing cymbals, nonsensical background noise, and recycled guitar riffs that sound too similar to the first half of the album. Instead of using so many guitars, perhaps Pit Er Pat would have been better off experimenting with other more electronic-based instruments to keep the listener on their toes. "Emperor of Charms" eventually turns into a locked-in groove of percussion and noodling riffs that sound nice together, but only hold your attention for so long.
From that point, the remainder of The Flexible Entertainer ends with more of a whimper than a bang, recycling old ideas and not bringing anything new to the table. The first half of the album is excellent, but unfortunately for the listener, Pit Er Pat don't see that creative streak through to the end. It's hard to fault them for that, though, since this is their first album as a newly reshuffled duo. Considering how good the majority of The Flexible Entertainer is, there is no doubt that Davis-Jeffers and Fuego will have worked out all the kinks in their sound on their next release.