Reviews

Menomena + Pit Er Pat

Zack Adcock

Man or machine? On inorganic compositional techniques and a band with many members.

Menomena + Pit Er Pat

Menomena + Pit Er Pat

City: Champaign, IL
Venue: The Highdive
Date: 2005-03-05

Menomena
Pit Er Pat
Despite the room's sonic superiority, 75 people in a place as big as The Highdive seems like nothing. This Saturday night show was poorly attended, like most early performances in this town. Of course, I only mention it in passing. The small size of the crowd didn't seem to affect the bands, with the exception of the occasional tongue-in-cheek comment regarding the DJ/dance party later that night; the club's weekend moneymaker. The fans that did make it were the dedicated few. Most of them knew Menomena's songs and rocked along equally hard to Pit Er Pat. Pit Er Pat's stuttering organic glitch pop is a neurotic collection of eerie keyboard/organ leads accompanied by a rhythm section whose batteries, let's say, are perpetually fresh. Known only as Butchy Fu Ego in the liner notes of the band's recently release Shakey, Pit Er Pat's drummer is uncanny. He drives the band's haunted carnival sound, akin to Blonde Redhead, becoming ever more apparent as he flails about the kit. This is what live music allows us to see. Listening to Shakey, where the drums are simply one part of a greater whole, one gets the feeling that this thing is vocalist/keyboardist Fay Davis-Jeffers's show. Seeing all three performers recreate the sound before our eyes changes the story. Pit Er Pat is a group of three talented players presented under the guise of one solid unit. The band's strength lies in its rhythm. This makes some sense; after all, the band's compositions are almost entirely rhythm. Some songs are more full than others, leading to more exciting performance pieces. In "Vultures Beware", for example, you can hear the building sound, even on the recorded version. But live, the way the instruments come together for the song's climax is breathtaking. As listeners, we begin to realize that it's one thing to pull off a stunning moment in the studio, but to be able to recreate it live is something else. Such is the magic Pit Er Pat brings to the stage, or that the stage brings to Pit Er Pat. Menomena's show works as something of a companion piece to Pit Er Pat's. The band's rhythmic qualities don't take the stage in the same way; instead it's their patchwork songwriting that stands out. Patchwork songwriting? This band bases its song structures around "Deeler", a computer program written for the band by its members. The program pieces the songs together with loops and layers, creating what we know to be a song from a series of sounds. What all this means is that Menomena's songs are created in a truly unconventional nature, forcing the band to first make the songs and then, once finished, to learn them in order to play them live. Deeler's heralded debut on the band's I Am The Fun Blame Monster made it the most publicized of Menomena's band members, leading most to overlook the living members and their skill. Its presence also pulls into question the band's ability to translate live. After this bizarre songwriting process is said and done, Menomena takes the road as a three piece touring band armed with two saxophones, two guitars, a bass, electric piano and organ, xylophone, a drum kit, and three solid voices. Seeing the miscellany of instruments involved proves not only that the music is more complicated than it sounds, but that this band -- after taking a step with Deeler that might turn the noses of songwriting purists up at the band -- truly does flesh out the songs live. What you don't get in Menomena is a band whose live sound pales in comparison to its recorded one. Whereas many bands might flail and falter to find a happy medium between this novelty songcraft and a live performance, Deeler's presence is simply not felt in the live environment. It's as if these songs were created organically. So in the end, no harm, no foul. You get great songs, a solid performance, and you leave even more impressed that this band can create this whole new songwriting process and still pull off a great live show. There's no glitch or drawback about Menomena; it's the real deal. These two bands are working hard to push the bar, ultimately leaving them each in an outlandish position. Most of us are interested in not only where music is but also where it's going. Menomena and Pit Er Pat are both bands to watch, bands whose creative strengths lay in something off-kilter. They're intriguing but also accessible enough to remain within reach. So, get to reaching.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image