Monday, February 2, 2015

AP- Review: Passenger Peru - Light Places - Even Outshines Last Year's Debut - Free Stream / DNLD of "The Best Way To Drown"

When you hear the almost robotic over modulated harmonies, the kaleidoscope of industrial percussion and hand claps, lost radio signals and the layered oscillating chaos of House Squares on Passenger Peru's sophomore album "Light Places" it is a clear indication that you are not in Kansas anymore. In fact the tone on this vastly creative and beautifully askew album may suggest that you are in a parallel universe or maybe just in a particularly strange section of Brooklyn, that section located deep inside the brain grooves of Justin Stivers (vocals, guitar, bass, synth, drums, drum machines) and Justin Gonzales (vocals, guitar, synth, piano, samples). Passenger Peru's 2014 debut self titled album was clearly the best head trip of last year. A super inner fever dream of an album that traversed so many sounds from noise rock, post rock and more in an experimental way. It is one of those albums that leaves you grasping for descriptive straws. I recently described Memory Garden off that debut as Simon and Garfunkel pushed through a Flaming Lips/ Animal Collective / Modest Mouse filter. Sure, Passenger Peru's sound can be hard to describe but that is always the best kind of music (to me).

"Light Places" is equally as vast in tone but maybe takes even more chances, it is maybe more out of focus too but that is where the allure lies. A good marriage is hard to find and I can only surmise that Justin and Justin are the kind of musical couple who finish each other's sentences because the audacious creative curve balls thrown out on "Light Places" feel like they came out of one mind. On one hand it has a totally spacey nature like it is coming from an Alien planet but deep within the out of the world sounds, the robotic industrial beats you can feel a totally earth bound feel too. In the experimental psychedelic stew there are jazz flavors, funk and even Andalusian /Arabic tones sprinkled in as well.

Friends Don't Call deceptively builds slowly into a kind of beautiful anger. It is lush, thick and eventually explodes in an spacey anthemic way. The line: "the price that your worth will be deducted from birth" stands out in The Best Way To Drown, a kind of full charged rocker with a rebel streak. Like some of Muse's work it as a freedom fighter tone like it is hiding in dark places from an omnipresent enemy. The bass riffs, the walls of sound are delicious, the words a bit battle scarred, "here come the waves over the mountainside, wash me away, wash away all our lives."

There is something about Placeholder, maybe the downbeat of the keys or the ascending build up that made me think of the Beatles Yellow Submarine (that is if the acid drops went much to far) and faint touches of Radiohead's Ok Computer as well. One Time Daisy Fee feels like a drug hazy post punk song with a big wet kiss of glam all over it. Flashes of T.Rex and even Be Bop Deluxe stirred in my brain as I enjoyed it. It is a glorious happy mess of a song (in a good way) with whimsical musical breaks.

If all the songs on "Light Places" were movies then Break My Neck is it's play. There is a gallant over arching tone in the performance like a dramatic Freddy Mercury stance. Failing Art School starts with a clearing of the throat and falls head first into a beautiful counter-play of acoustic guitars. The cadence and melodies feel like medieval chamber music eventually falling further into a sort of sonic bedlam full of disjointed sounds and a sampled voice. Middle eastern melodies (to some degree) find their way in the other worldly Better Than The Movies. The appropriate entitled Impossible Mathematics introduce a free form tone in the experimental fog of this album. It moves from light to dark. It flirts with light jazz, funk and heavy metal progs. It shifts it's shape and to me it sounds like it might of been written on the fly. Nothing wrong with that if that is the case. The more straight forward arena noise rock tone of Crimson Area Rug (dare I say) feels a tiny bit out of place on this album only because it is much less musically askew than the rest. On Company Time is so lovely and forlorn and would feel so perfect in an equally complexly sad Wes Anderson movie.

"Light Places" by Passenger Peru is too good, too unique, to cast more comparisons it's way. All you really need to know is that it sounds like one of those albums that the old school major labels would not release. Those types of albums are some of my favorite kinds and I cherish them. The last song is a short spartan ending credit called Pretty Lil' Paintin'. Coiled up in the pretty strumming is broken heart wincing anger and self loathing. At first is feels like an odd little track because of it's dour nature and placement but it ends up being one of the albums bright spots because it ends just as it is building and, in so doing, leaves you wanting more. A lot more.You yearn to hear the rest of the song, the rest of the torrid story. Hmmm??? Maybe on album number three.
Robb Donker

Light Places is out February 24th. You can pre-order here.

Passenger Peru - "Light Places" Track Listing:

1: House Squares
2: Friends Don't Call
3: The Best Way to Drown
4: Placeholder
5: One Time Daisy Fee
6: Break My Neck
7: Failing Art School
8: Better Than The Movies
9: Impossible Mathematics
10: Crimson Area Rug
11: On Company Time
12: Pretty Lil' Paintin'

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