by Carter Delloro
As a rule, I tend to not like slow, languid music. I think Kurt Vile aimlessly meanders too much, I don’t have patience for a sparse, slow singer-songwriter like Leonard Cohen and I never really connected with Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Torch songs aren’t for me and ballads generally put me to sleep. My fairly firm stance on this led me to initially be turned off by Pure X’s recently released third album, Angel.
Yet, there are some slow songs that I like. Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden is one of my all-time favorite records, and as I recently confessed, The Weeknd’s “The Morning” hits me in all the right spots. That’s because some slow music creates an atmosphere. Certain songs use their slowness to explore different tones and aesthetics and can transport me as a listener into a head space that is a completely foreign reality. That was what Pure X’s debut album, Pleasure, did for me.
Pleasure is a haunting trip into a smoke-filled black hole that slows down time and alters you forever. Pure X’s second album, Crawling Up The Stairs, was a total shift in direction. Instead of crafting eerie soundscapes, the local trio strummed along on bright guitars and earnestly bared their souls. The flowing, distorted guitars were relegated to being sonic accoutrements that peppered their neo-folk album. Needless to say, I hated it.
Angel, though, I think finds a great middle ground between the two records (though I’d still prefer Pleasure, Part 2). A song like “Rain,” for example, is patient and fluid, mixing different guitar tones into a gorgeous pastiche of sound. “Fly Away With Me Woman” turns up the effects pedals as Nate Grace’s falsetto floats along in a dreamy coo. “Valley of Tears” features the grooviest rhythm section yet on a Pure X track combined with squalls of distortion that perfectly color the track.
Yet, there are still time when Pure X try to channel Kurt Vile too much, or play like they are Real Estate on codeine. “Livin’ The Dream,” for one, is a track where everything just sounds too precious – Grace’s voice, the maracas on percussion, the thin delicate strums of the rhythm guitar. A song like that doesn’t explore any sonic textures; it’s just kind of boring.
Pure X will surely feature Angel prominently in their set tomorrow for the Austin Psych Fest, which I can only imagine will be the perfect setting for their psychedelic textures. Psych Fest has an incredible lineup of local and international bands that will be rocking our town this weekend, so be sure to check it out.