Their music is a chalk line in the dust. From the other side, behind the music, there comes the silent dare: “Step over!” When the music begins, your pulse can’t help but quicken, and you feel cold as your heart beats hard, hard, harder, following the path forged by the insistent-persistent percussion that may be the one element that binds this music by the band named Pineal Ventana.
So, do you dare? Will you approach this line in the dust, and examine it? The music may startle you; it may disturb you. Perhaps you will succumb to the hypnotic percussion and revel in the abandon with which Pineal Ventana plays with sounds and musical styles. On the other hand, maybe you see in the abandon a noisy lack of discipline or disdain for proper boundaries that repulses you. If you are repulsed, that is probably fine with the members of Pineal Ventana, who focus not only on playing their own particular brand of art/music, but also on the contradictions it expresses. Saxophone player Shane explains that his individual goals for the band are to interest people and to annoy people. Not one or the other — both. In some way or another, the other members of the band probably agree. Their music is provocative, and the only illegitimate reaction is indifference.
Talking with the members of Pineal Ventana, the opposing elements in their approach appear almost naturally. For instance, Mitch (percussion) explains: “One thing I enjoy is the structure aspect. There are these songs. We write them down, we practice them, keep practicing them, and eventually they get recorded. Then there is the other aspect that’s just as important and equally enjoyable. That is sort of an improv thing; maybe we will get the skeleton [of a song] and anything can happen, and anything does happen.” Jason adds that on the last song from their CD, Breath as you Might, “The drums and the vocals are the only things that remain constant.” Song structure vs. improvisation; even within the same song. Pineal Ventana will even build in or plan visual aspects to songs, another odd distortion of the simple state of things.
Describing Pineal Ventana is like trying to grab hold of a phantom. As you close in on the shadowy figure, it eludes your grasping fingers and moves on. Some have tried comparing them to other bands, like, “a gothic B-52s,” the Butthole Surfers, Siouxsie, and plenty of more obscure bands. One reviewer made his/her frustration apparent right in a review: “Snatches of sound that remind me of Iceburn, Neurosis, and Morsel. And yet, that explanation falls flat, too. Pineal Ventana is utterly and completely unique.” (A+A e-zine, #142). More ambitious writers often only convey a piece of the puzzle, as they try to sum up the music into a pithy paragraph or two. Some hear the guitar/rhythm drone, the wailing saxophone, or screaming-banshee vocals. Parts of a whole. The only way to appreciate the music in its totality (and coincidentally, the much ballyhooed stage antics) is through direct experience.
Even in concept, Pineal Ventana was born of competing ideas and launched with an inherent tension to drive it. “When Clara (vocals) and I first started the band, we wanted to do something that was as different as possible and as original as we could possibly make it, while at the same time not knowing where it was going, having no idea of what we want to sound like. So the idea was to have a melding of all the different styles and minds of all the people involved, and for everybody to have a feeling of freedom within it. Working towards one goal but shooting ourselves into the unknown,” says Mitchell. Slowly, the current lineup formed around these concepts as Kim Chee (guitar), a five-year PV veteran, Shane, Jason, and bass-player John joined the band. Clara opines that for many “the result was too weird. We’re not gothy enough or we’re not punk enough or we’re not rock enough. We are too diverse for a lot of places to say ‘come play’.” So, a drive to be uncompromisingly original, the choice to combine different likes and dislikes, and an open approach to songwriting and music that is guaranteed to bring the styles into conflict.
Conflict. Contradictions. Interplay. Exchange. There is tension created in the mixing of opposites and contradictions. Tension is energy. And given the right direction, the right context, energy can be excitement. Conversely, the absence of excitement, the absence of tension boils down to a lack of energy. Lethargy. Stillness… Stagnancy. And for those who don’t already know, Pineal Ventana lives by this mantra: STAGNANCY IS REVOLTING. Stagnancy is revolting; say it and listen closely. There it is again, in the background, the dare: “Step over.” It’s the same challenge — refuse complacency, and opt for the road less traveled. Take risks. Refuse mediocrity and accept conflict. Many will ask “Why, when blithe adherence to the standard is easier and more comfortable?” The answer is simple. Tension is energy and energy is excitement. Excitement and the flush of new experience lets you know that you are truly alive. Pineal Ventana is just a potent reminder.
SCUSS Media (related in some fashion to Pineal Ventana) is releasing a compilation of original material from likeminded bands entitled Our Heat (Your Moisture). A CD release party is scheduled for April 11 at the Somber Reptile in Atlanta. For more information on the new compilation and Pineal Ventana, check out their Web site: http://www.geocities.com/sunsetstrip/studio/5932 or write to P.O. Box 55138, Atlanta, Georgia 30308-0138.