Music

Pumice: Puny

Noise music is supposed to be challenging. That's something that Pumice understands and has taken to heart as Puny makes clear. Fortunately, like the best noise releases, there are breaks from the madness where everything makes sense, at least for a little while.


Pumice

Puny

Label: Soft Abuse
US Release Date: 2012-05-15
UK Release Date: 2012-05-15
Amazon
iTunes

Whenever the issue of noise music is brought up in my most close-knit circles, it immediately becomes a defining tool. There may not be a genre as divisive as noise music has proven to be. It seems that everyone has a passionate opinion about it and that there's virtually no room for indifference. Somewhat surprisingly, in my experience, its most ardent defenders (myself included) who have either done time playing punk houses basements in as many cities as possible or playing jazz halls and studying John Cage. Ocassionaly both. Its detractors tend to be either genre purists or the general public.

In any case, I firmly believe that as a genre it's the one that imposes the least limitations and allows the most freedom for expression. Whenever I get a noise record to listen to at certain times it feels intensely voyeuristic. While listening to Puny, the latest release from Pumice, that feeling was sparked more than once. Thankfully, that feeling can also act as a clear-cut indicator that the person behind the noise is doing something remarkably right. While it's true that anyone can make noise, only select few are extremely effective when experimenting with it. Pumice is one of those few.

Puny starts with the immediately jarring "Hey Crap Crab", which features seriously distorted instruments and near-indecipherable lyrics. It's a strange thing to listen to and increasingly difficult to dissect and make sense of. That's part of everything, though. The chaos and the strangeness is the point. Everything barely holds together and teeters on the brink of complete destruction and only certain threads connect at certain points -- but when they do, their surroundings become sensible. It's a dangerous balancing act of appreciation and enjoyment, as is much of the best works of the genre.

"Stink Moon", the subsequent track, is alternately damaged and beautiful. Pumice reveals that he's not much of a lyricist but an extremely talented composer, especially when it comes to piano arrangements. While "Ready to Rot" isn't as immediate or as enjoyable as either "Hey Crap Crab" or "Stink Moon", it does have a few moments but is ultimately forgettable. Then a calm in the storm emerges with the devastatingly gorgeous organ piece "Trophy". "Trophy" extends for over 12 minutes but is gripping throughout, coming off as a weird left-field companion to CFCF's Exercises, all subdued melancholy.

"Coeliacs Bring a Plate" picks the tempo back up again and doesn't hesitate into delving into weird territory, riddling itself with distorted vocals, spoken overdubs, persistent piano plinks, and upbeat incessant electric guitar riffing. It's a very short piece and essentially acts as a necessary bridge between "Trophy" and the surprisingly accessible "Covered in Spiders", another undeniable album highlight. "Covered in Spiders" is a rambling balkan-inflected folk song that gets wonderfully effective atmospheric additions as it progresses. "Hump Piss" is another surprise, a short acoustic track with some haunting vocal work buried underneath. It's remarkably effective.

Puny comes to an unsurprisingly strange close with two of its most insane tracks, "Smell the Towel", and "Cuachag Nan Craobh". The former, almost entirely vocals and feedback, the latter, a nine minute ambient wash layered with Pumice's various strange effects before breaking into a beautiful atmospheric piece. It's indicative of how the record, and the genre as a whole, operates. One moment things are at their most confusing, then things turn bleak, then they're resolved. That's as life-like of a progression as one can hope for and it speaks volumes about noise music. While everything on Puny might not work, whether intentional or not, it has enough beautiful moments shining through to attract curious ears and any victory no matter how small it is, is still a victory.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.