I don’t like to keep harping on Hotel Alexis, but Pumice’s Pebbles plays out the avant-folk weirdness that band’s recent full-length attempted. This one has the added bonus of doing so properly and beautifully. There’s a sense of autism in Pumice head Stefan Neville’s realization of his songs. Very little is discernible in the way of lyrics and his production values sound and feel straight out of the dust bowl. It’s almost the lo-fi folk equivalent of the Chromatics’ great Plaster Hounds. A palpable claustrophobic madness is writ illegibly across many of this disc’s songs, but remarkably Neville’s delivery isn’t as concerned as you’d expect. He lazily tumbles out occasional lyrics like he’s having a conversation over coffee while around him there’s a constant peaking of instruments (“The Only Doosh Worth Giving”), dissonant electronic squalls and accordion lines that sound as if they were committed to tape mere moments away from disintegration (“Greenock”) and heavy dirges set against the eternal clank of moving chains (“Spike/Spear”). It’s like work songs from some otherworldly monster’s rock quarry.
Sure some clarity shines through on occasion – like the ukulele sway of “Both Beasts” and bleary new dawn piano melody gathered at the close of “Bold/Old” – but there’s no ultimately no escaping the album’s insularity and embrace of its little wondrous patch of land on the fringe.
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