The Pod – The Pod (Accident Prone Records, CD/digital 02 June 2017; LP 25 August 2017)
I’ll admit, I don’t really listen to electronic or synthesized music, because I have trouble getting into anything that’s too inorganic or artificial. Just a matter of personal taste, I guess, but whenever something shows up in my inbox that’s full of bloops and beeps and (especially) fake digital drums, it generally finds its way to the trash folder pretty quickly. Not intending to offend anybody here, I mean I understand there is certainly a market for that type of thing because it does appeal to a lot of people, but I just happen not to be one of them — and it wouldn’t make any sense for me to waste my time trying to write about something that I just don’t understand (or for you to waste YOUR time reading it).
However, when I find out that there’s a drone-ambient-synth project created by Mr. Scott Endres, guitarist and one of the songwriters for MAKE (one of my favorite bands, as you surely have noticed by now), and someone with whom I know (via the magic of social media) I share a rather large overlap in musical taste — well, I’m going to take notice, and give it a chance. I’m glad I did. Now I’ll share it with you, and I think you’ll be glad too.
Released digitally earlier this month by Oregonian label Accident Prone (which was also responsible for last year’s MAKE album Pilgrimage of Loathing), and slated for a limited pressing (just 100 copies) on vinyl in the near future, The Pod‘s new full-length The Pod is eight tracks — 45 minutes — of sometimes stark, sometimes gut-wrenching sounds, lovingly assembled by the album’s mastermind as an outlet for — in Endres‘ own words — “existential struggle, life and love lost, coping with depression… Coping with existence.”
To append what was mentioned earlier about inorganic sounds — technically, everything we hear has some degree of artificiality: it’s amplified, distorted, reverbed, processed and manipulated in any of a million different ways. The same is certainly true about the music here, although there are different levels of syntheticousness present: at one end of the spectrum you’ll have a track that’s basically all dark-ambient sounds and drone chords like the instrumental “A Stranger in a Hidden Room,” to “Folded Eyes” which consists mostly of electronic/industrial sounds producing funky yet angry rhythms, “The Desert” where everything sounds very buzzy and distorty, or “Rise and Fall” where the drums and synth-bassline are extremely distorted and coupled with occasional jarring orchestral stabs, to “Activated Charcoal” that inserts a happy-sounding synth organ (similar to the old Casio “pipe organ” preset) in the middle of some heavily distorted drums and vocals that (just like all the vocals on this album) are a gnarled raspy blackened semi-whispered snarl.
Many of these tracks feature real drumming — processed and heavily effected in some places, but real nonetheless — sampled from recordings of former MAKE drummer Matt Stevenson. A couple of the songs here — the slow waltz of “Lifegiver” and the fourteen-minute “The Analeptic Ritual” — were actually derived from material Endres had previously recorded with Stevenson and their MAKE bandmate Spencer Lee. The latter of these is definitely one of the album’s highlights: an excruciatingly slowly developing, soft ambient and bleak textural landscape; after more than eight minutes, bits of drums enter the mix, still building very VERY gradually; by minute eleven, the layers of guitar get a little more prominent and from there to the end there’s much more of an intensity.
Also building in intensity is the final track “That Was New York” — it opens with faster drumming and cymbals ringing nonstop, rolling synth-bass chords, and more of those rasped vocals. Eventually, as the song (and the whole record) draws to a conclusion, more and more fragmented layers continue to pile up, creating a dissonant cacophonic mess. Overall it’s far less important exactly what the music sounds like, than how it makes you feel. And the overall message received here is, we’re all broken people, to some extent, everything sucks, a lot of the time, there’s really easy way to make it all okay, but with some determination and perseverance we’ll get through it somehow. Or we won’t.
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