Speed of the Pittsburgh Sound brings you the second edition of Speed Trials, a segment devoted entirely to reviewing only the most exciting and innovative tracks the Pittsburgh music scene has to offer. Two sections will feature four songs each, the first of which will focus on tracks that are more of the rock persuasion, while the second section will focus on music that can usually be labeled as hip-hop/laptop/down-tempo/ambient.
Hopefully, the track selections will possess enough variety to provide a brief snapshot of the broad and expanding Pittsburgh independent music community. Most, if not all, of the groups featured here will be playing shows in Pittsburgh over the summer months, check back soon for Speed of the Pittsburgh Sound’s updated June/July concert calendar. Enough shameless plugging, on to the tunes.
Kim Phuc’s “Wormwood Star” has the feeling of an early Stooges outtake, a track that would have been deemed too loud, too vicious, and simply too scary for audiences circa 1969 to process let alone enjoy. With its dangerous, buzz saw guitars, face pounding drum sections and apocalyptically cryptic vocals, “Wormwood Star” possesses the kind of doomed menace serious metal bands unwittingly force into parody. This is the soundtrack to a riot, a buckshot blast through a store front, white hot and unstable.
Fresh off a string of South By Southwest shows that saw the band rubbing elbows and playing on the same bill as LA scene builders No Age and Mika Miko, Kim Phuc brings their snarling, no frills proto-punk to Mr. Roboto Project on May 25. Enter at your own risk.
I don’t mean to speculate about Josh Verbanets’s, Meeting of Important People’s lead singer-songwriter/guitarist, motives behind writing a song like “I Know Every Street,” a track he contributed to his former band’s LP (Lohio’s History, The Destroyer) and is now featured as the centerpiece of Meeting of Important People’s debut, self-titled album. I’d like to think he’s talking about Pittsburgh and the ways in which this town’s intricacies feel small enough to learn but damn near impossible to master. The track is a quieter, down tempo jam (and staple of MOIP’s live show) that slowly builds to a rocking crescendo, with Verbanets declaring he “leads every beat in this town.” Could this song be a call to arms for the rest of Pittsburgh’s indie pop elite to conquer the city? For bands like Donora, Good Night, States, Lohio and now Meeting of Important People, I think they already have.
David Bernabo, Pittsburgh’s mad scientist of folk-blues-hip-hop-rock fusion, and his group Assembly crafted the beautiful mess “Out There,” remixed by Birdshit of local prog metal group Drugdealer, for their Mahler Box EP released last fall. Disjointed, melodic and danceable in the same breath, “Out There” showcases Bernabo’s knack for creating innovative vocal harmonies and challenging compositions, highlighted by the spastically active, yet deceptively simple production by Birdshit. It’s a major concoction from Pittsburgh’s most astute connoisseurs of avant-pop, a track that’s lovely and adoringly garish in equal amounts. Listening to the Mahler Box EP on repeat has brought my excitement to a fever pitch for the group’s first full length album, Happener Magicker, to be released early this summer.
Mariage Blanc’s “Contrary to Popular Belief”, off the group’s first EP Broken Record released last fall, has the immediate mood of a sweeping epic, even while the track clocks in at a little less than four minutes. A novel’s worth of emotion radiates from the quiet strings, elegiac vocals and little production touches that make the song shimmer with nuance and depth. As the jaunty, Scott Joplin-pianos get paired with sparking electric guitars for the heartbreaking coda, the denouement feels completely fitting and realized. Not many groups can intuit this much feeling over the course of an entire album let alone one song, but Mariage Blanc seem more than comfortable discarding melodrama and sappy sentiment to create songs that are genuinely moving. Mariage Blanc plays with Boca Chica and Prussia at Howler’s Coyote Cafe on May 27th.