Pele: Enemies

Adam Dlugacz



Label: Polyvinyl
US Release Date: 2002-10-15
UK Release Date: Available as import

For music fans there is no activity, no moment, and no memory that does not have its own soundtrack. Cleaning the apartment, going on a road trip, last day of college, getting drunk with friends, having your heart broken, falling in love, getting your swerve on -- all activities that require a different type of musical accompaniment. Some moments are so intrinsically tied to a song that you cannot listen to that song without reliving the memory. While it is the moment that makes the music, eventually the music evokes the moment, and you can't listen to certain records unless you are embarking on certain tasks. Take the entire Thrill Jockey roster, whenever I'm listening to Tortoise, Sea and Cake or Mouse on Mars I feel both incredibly relaxed and somewhat intellectual. Those bands play warm, but interesting music that forces the listener to stop any activity they are engaged in and pay attention to what the artist is doing. Their output is relaxed, but not neutered like many coffee shop troubadours, avoiding the audio wall paper tag. The result is the perfect soundtrack for afternoons spent in quiet conversation over a cup of coffee. Up until now, those bands have held a monopoly on that smart but relaxed genre for me, now I gladly welcome Pele into their ranks.

More than a couple of reviews have dismissed Pele as an instrumental emo band, an absurd claim that is refuted by the band's work. Emo is boring, with or without the strained pre-pubescent vocals, so an instrumental variation holds little appeal. Pele imbibes their jazz-pop/Tortoise-rock with an energy that is instantly infectious. Drummer Jon Mueller, computer programmer Jon Minor, guitarist and pianist Chris Rosenau and bassist Matt Tennessen are all fantastic musicians, intent on flawless execution, as well as a penchant for experimentation. The backbone of the band's output revolves around the freestyle approach of the rhythm section. Instead of dueling instruments commonly found in jammier bands, however, the quintet compliment each other, highlighting each other's strengths. Pele has managed to harness their rambling natures into melodies and harmonies that are flat out pretty. Bassist Tennessen adds a bounce to their sound, that while not quite funky, adds pluckiness to their overall sound.

Despite Enemies instant accessibility, it is in the details that the true skill of this band is revealed. Minor and Rosenau are constantly throwing in wonderfully conceived sonic doodlings that dance over the music like pixies run amuck. The experimentation is subtle, an odd time signature or burst of computer generated squiggles suddenly highlighting the intracies of the song. Even better, Pele seem to know their limitations and avoid the misguided forays into the black hole of space jazz exploration that seems to sink so many bands playing a similar style. The production of Enemies is remarkable, providing a bright, clean sound over which the band lays down broad strokes of sonic delight. It's still early to tell what memories this album will eventually be tied to, however, if the amount of time it has spent in my stereo is any indication, there will be many.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

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

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