Friday, July 4, 2014

PINN'D "PINN'D EP"
(Vagueness Records)


This electronica album covers a lot of territory. Influences from various corners of the world are evident in the singer's vocals and in the backing computer compositions, but the major one present is the cassette's nod to downtroughten blues. Even when Pinn'd are at their most abstract, the vocals are hot, humid and soulfully down. The singer's voice is alto if not female tenor; it's low, sultry and seductive like the late Amy Winehouse. Occasionally the vocalist can be playful and borderline bratty like Kathleen Hanna which is fun and spices things up. At her most poetic, the vocalist channels her inner MacBeth witch. It's poetry but from across the pond somewhere and its rhythm is different from what we're used to here in the states. Behind the vocals it's all sequencers, keyboards, BOSS dr.beat percussion, etc. No brass sections, minimal backup vocals, no guitars through amps, it's just THX 1138, Windows 95 and Fruity Loops.


I feel like I've heard this dichotomy of very human vocals mixed with very synthetic computer music before. The Blow is one example. The Knife is another. It's effective and an interesting irony to exploit. But do I dare say I've heard enough of this particular musical arrangement? I literally just reviewed a similar tape, Little Spoon, which presented the exact same arrangement of music. Little Spoon barely broke formula because there were multiple vocal tracks that echoed, created octave harmonies and were sonically mutated with the assistance of electronic do-dads. That, and I couldn't tell if the vocals were done by a boy or a girl. I guess I should be more gender neutral with my accusations. Males are equally guilty of exploiting this musical irony to redundancy. Early Dan Deacon is an example. And in my younger and wilder years I myself must admit to dancing around a computer while singing shitty karaoke to a bunch of young, impressionable college art students once or twice.

I'd say from my perspective, which is starring at a big cardboard box of cassettes from around the world, the musical concept of parring a beautiful human voice with a computer is a little overdone at this point. In fact, I'd like to see a pendulum swing of musicians embracing analog instruments again. Sure, it involves more cooperation and balancing schedules with other human beings, but there is power in numbers. Machines always come off as cold, no matter how well they mimic humanity. Sorry Phillip K. Dick, there's no fooling the real thing when it comes to rock and/or roll.

From an economical standpoint, it also just makes a hell of a lot more sense to back up your songs with the computer equivalent to an orchestral arrangement. I'm well aware of that fact most vocalists can't hire an orchestra. But there's got to be more of a middle ground, even if it's just 1 voice, 1 guitar and THEN all the computer mumbojumbo.

But if you're into this type of thing and it's still new and fresh to you, this cassette is very delightful to listen to even if its validity to the avant garde is questionable. And while this reviewer has heard one too many drum machines, the electronic compositions that accompany the vocals are interesting and are not phoned in. The percussion clicks and klinks unexpectedly without overstimulating or drawing away attention from the vocals.

Overall, this is a good cassette. Its contemporary electronic moody pop music. Feels right. Give it a try.
http://vaguenessrecords.bandcamp.com/album/pinnd-ep

--Jack Turnbull

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