Again, this is all still an experiment. We hope to produce Speed Trials bi-monthly, or as often as we receive new songs from Pittsburgh bands out there. So to all you garage/art/punk/pop/metal/folk rockers and rappers in the south hills, north hills, east end, south side, north side and beyond, send in your tunes to get some press and feedback. We are coming to you now with the second half of the first Speed Trials segment, chalk full of more quality tunes hatched right here in the steel city. These four tracks are as diverse as it gets, with sounds ranging from soulful, rock Americana, to sensuous electro glitch to superfluously progressive experimentalism. Sometimes, Pittsburgh is generous to me, I believe I shall take my exercise (that’s a Rorschach reference for all you philistines out there who have yet to absorb Watchmen and all its wonders). Onto the music.
I have a love/hate relationship with progressive post-rock. I count Explosions in the Sky’s All of the Sudden, I Miss Everyone as one of my all-time favorite LP’s, but have always resented the hell out of The Mars Volta for their cryptic, overblown, existential/mystical musings put to music. It’s a fine line between ground breakingly epic compositions, and bloated experiments that seem more interesting for the musician to play than for the audience to listen to. However, Pittsburgh’s Zombi, with their latest release Spirit Animal, have boiled down my favorite ingredients of prog-rock into a bombastic and unabashed explosion of thundering virtuosity. “Spirit Warrior” is the second shortest track on the album, clocking in just shy of the 9 minute mark, and offers no shortage of intricately layered sonics that interlock with clockwork precision. The track’s backbone is a spiraling synth line that allows a variety of electronics and percussion to surround and recede before the riff’s massive breakdown mid-song. It then blasts off into a slightly altered trajectory, showing off doppelganger versions of rhythms and combinations from the song’s first half. The attention to detail and expert craftsmanship on “Spirit Warrior” is utterly apparent, easily carving out Zombi’s spot atop Pittsburgh’s progressive rock mountain.
I didn’t realize it was possible to make the state of Ohio a personal and spiritual sanctuary for the persecuted and oppressed, but that’s just what local roots rockers Steamship Jesus have managed to do. With the track “Ohio” off their debut EP, Steamship Jesus have painted a tragically beautiful portrait of escape that is both illusory and fleeting, assuring us that their Mecca is only one state line away (three if you count West Virginia’s phallic panhandle). As cringe-worthy as it may seem to some Pittsburghers, I find that weirdly comforting, especially amidst the ramshackle guitar heroics and no-bullshit plan for exodus via the soul-drenched vocals. This is a last chance at redemption, and you best get on the bus or get the hell out of lead singer Mike D.’s way, as he claims “so I will run, without you somehow/listen to me now, I’m leaving somehow.” I can easily smell the mildew of the flea bag motel this guy has been holed up in, littered with lines of coke, bottles of Jack, and midnight confessions. As romantic as it all sounds, is making it to Steubenville really an escape?
This girl has to be bummed. The dude she was dating purposefully took a D.U.I. so he didn’t have to drive her around all day. That has to go down in history as the most elaborately stupid plan to give the slip to a chick. But at the same time Satin Gum, with their track “I Got a D.U.I. Babe” off their self titled debut EP, make the mundane, day to day moments of a relationship seem like reason enough to hit the bottle and hit it hard. The crashing guitars, subtle electronics, and massive hooks give this overcharged power pop gem some legs and lend a persuasive hand to the booze over chick scenario. “Anything I ever said about love was just the whiskey talkin,’ ” assures lead singer Brian Spekis with a half-baked sense of rationalization, illustrating that this relationship was not only born from a drunken night, but will be disposed of in a similar manner. A man much wiser than me once said “Alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” It’s hilariously refreshing to hear a young, upstart band armed with such ironic catchiness take that advice to heart, especially when they have the 23-year-old in me thinking, “Fuck it, I’d probably do the same thing.”
Okay, unfortunately, I just discovered Ennui’s goregeous debut full length, The Myth in Which We Live, this past week even though it was released close to nine months ago. I’ll be the first to admit when I’m not a head of the curve, but this is the only time it really hurts. Ennui’s glitchy, sample laden, electro pop pulsates brightly enough to be seen from space, and “Lil’ Radio” might be shiniest beacon of the bunch, giving the rest of the Milky Way some throbing, other-wordly beats to groove to. Utilizing similar electronic textures and guitars as The Books, Ennui incorporates vocals that sound as if Sigur Ros suddenly chose to sing in English. “Lil’ Radio” manages to efficiently combine these elements into a track that is thrillingly anthemic and unbearably danceable in the same breath. I am keeping this review short, because the song speaks for itself. Ennui proves to be yet another local band that has me holding my breath for their next release.