Chicago post-rockers Pit er Pat’s latest for Thrill Jockey was largely recorded live in the studio, with raw production embellished by an arsenal of exotic instruments including a bobo balaphone (!), Burmese temple gong and a vibraslap – to cite a few favourites from the press release. In the slinky opener lilting guitars groove over increasingly cacophanous percussion and a scratchy male voice saying “one, two, two, one”, as if over a transister radio. Redolent of Can’s spacious psych rock, with the German originators’ jam-session looseness, it also has more than a passing resemblance to Primal Scream’s Trainspotting theme.
Synth fragments and little electronic pulses and whirls begin the pitter-pattering ‘Evacuation Days’ before a little reggae riff introduces a shimmying skank. Garden variety psych rock with a somewhat generic swirling climax, the track is let down by the rather lacklustre little-girl-lost vocals. ‘Omen’ peeps and creeps ominously, augmented by the welcome addition of horns but is again marred by flat singing and iffy lyrics: “Take off all your clothes, cut open your chest” (hmm, no thanks). Funereal organs start the Can-ish ‘My Darkers’, one of many unconventional orchestral touches apparently employed to ‘expore elements of spirituality’. While certainly not unpleasant, calling Pit er Pat’s music ’spiritual’ is a leap of faith – padon the pun – too far.
The high point of High Time – I sincerely hope that is not the bad stoner pun I think it it is – comes mid-album. ‘Copper Pennies’ is sung in slightly deranged near-falsetto over a mildly Arabian (i.e., really mystical) retro pysch rock. The vocals – which remind me curiously of The Specials’s ‘Ghost Town’ – probably because of the track’s haunted house aesthetic – may be a little silly, but at least they are not indifferent. ‘The Cairo Shuffle’ – I title which confirms the Arabesque influence – also featuring cat-on-heat vocals, wheezes along on some pleasingly wonky antinquated keyboards. The vintage electronics and analogue pop sensibility reminds me vaguely of Broadcast’s retro futurist schtick. These tracks have a slightly hokey, deliberate lightness of touch which is refreshing after the more ponderous atmospherics of the earlier tracks.
‘Creation Stepper’ is a dubby jam of plinkity-plonk bells and chimes which begins its trip in Burma but heads off to the outler limits (man) after a hazy stop-over in Jamaica (High Time indeed). Not dissimilar to some ooioo and Boredoms stuff, it ends in lunatic childish singing and hand-claps and sounds like it was recorded in a big empty hall with alot of happy people. Similarly, the kitchen-sink carnival of ‘Trod-A-Lond’ recalls Konono No.1’s scrap-yard raves, while closer ‘The Good Morning Song’ revolves around a kaleidocopic steel drum loop and dreamy vocal harmonies. Pit er Pat are better when they are in a sunny mood, the portentious psychedelics of the first part of the album simply don’t suit them. A bit of a grower this one, and given one of the band members is called ‘Butchy Fuego’ (love this name!), they can’t be that bad can they? Fans of Stereolab and Broadcast may apply.