(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, August 1, 2011

CD review - Pursesnatchers, A Pattern Language (2011)

Chameleon-like Pursesnatchers stretch out, but maintain shoegaze roots
I covered Pursesnatchers in my June singles review. They had released Wet Cement as a single and I liked the tight song structure that contrasted with looser vocals and low-fi guitar fills. Giving A Pattern Language a listen, I still like them, but for slightly different reasons. I still enjoy the balance of tight and loose elements, but I really like the way they use an indie rock foundation to explore other musical avenues.

Whether it's the choppy new wave guitar sound and throbbing bass on Forever Overhead or the 10,000 Maniacs guitar/Natalie Merchant vocal of Third Body Problem, Pursesnatchers make their musical allusions but maintain their own shoegaze sound. Tracks like the slow, dreamy meandering of Kissena Park or the drifty Lost in Lost Angeles seem closest to the band's inherent sound.

A favorite track was the U-2 drive of Mechanical Rabbits. The U-2 elements are all in place -- a steady bass line with an Edge-style guitar line that repeats independent of the chord changes. Unlike Bono, the vocals are tossed off with nonchalance:
Lightning doesn't strike, so much as connect things
Balances out the energy that's burning between things
The lyrics are philosophical yet personal in a way that Bono and company often bypass. The bridge shifts the song into another direction, dropping the tempo and tight beat into a looser indie interlude. It still slides back, but the break is key to Pursesnatchers' sound. At their heart, they have a more open, emotional sound, but they tend to constrain it to a tighter musical space.

Another favorite track is Baseball on the Radio (download on Filter), a wonderfully trippy jam. Like a Yo La Tengo groove, the song is centered on a rotating, hypnotic bass line and repeating guitars. The droning collection of sounds builds into a psychedelic collection of layers. Detached vocals offset the joyous exaltation of the music.

With Pursesnatchers, Doug Marvin (Dirty on Purpose) and Annie Hart (Au Revoir Simone) have built a recognizable sound. I'd like to hear more of Hart's vocals, which seem rare on A Pattern Language, but that's just a quibble.

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