For five years, PC Worship have been the sort of amorphous New York ensemble that can only be defined by a series of question marks. Is this an improv noise collective? A “mutant soul band”? A casual experiment in home-recording? If so, why is their loft called Le Wallet? Did they really all meet as New School jazz majors? Is it true they build their own instruments? And why is one called “the shitar”? PC Worship is, in essence, a twisted, low-pitched vision of subterranean psychedelia—variously made of bad-moon-lit trash-punk, droning minimalism, prepared pianos, and Albert Ayler-worshipping sax freak-outs—as imagined by one Justin Frye, who handled vocals, guitars, tape manipulations, and keys as the writer, recorder, and producer of this latest behemoth, Social Rust. Frye has played back-up for experimental synth-cyborg Gary War as well as Baltimore weirdos Teeth Mountain, both of which offer only a surface idea of PC Worship’s frayed, pummeling avant-gardism. The questions have no direct answers—though who would want them?
Social Rust sees PC Worship evolving into their most realized semblance of a “rock band” yet, collaging decades of downtown New York dissonance while sludging into the future. Along with Frye, the core group is guitarist Michael Etten (also credited for “sax?” parts), bassist Jordan Bernstein of the Dreebs, and drummer Shannon Sigley, as well as numerous contributors of backwards violin lines learned from John Cale, homemade noise generators, circuit-bent tape players, creative piano solos (in other words, running one’s hand across the keys lawlessly), bass clarinet, and organ. Frye, along with another PC guy named “Bongo Dan” (credited here for adding percussive flourishes “on something, somewhere”), have both worked at NYC museum MoMA PS1—and perhaps they took notes on the cut-and-paste junk sculptures by contemporary artists who carry Dada forward. PC Worship’s adventurous style of art-punk is spiritually not dissimilar to that of Butthole Surfers, though it seems more interesting to draw connections to PC’s peers: Andrew Savage, of studious New York traditionalists Parquet Courts, is co-releasing Rust on his label, Dull Tools, and the two bands just announced that a supergroup called PCPC will tour with a godfather of similarly Beat-obsessed bohemian punk-noise, Thurston Moore.
PC Worship’s journey from tin-can-recorded live jams of squalling feedback, free jazz exploration, and meditative cello to the more formally-realized Social Rust is not unexpected—as early as 2010’s Millenial Kreephaus tape on Night-People, they’ve incorporated heavier punk riffs and conventional drum/vocal structures, despite the tendencies for crackling radio hiss and a gurgling, ghostly, cinematic distance. The organization of sound has been gradual over 2011’s Dread Head, 2012’s Toxic Love, and 2013’s Beat Punk, the ideas all crystallizing to a hyper-present maelstrom on Social Rust. The music of PC Worship’s past pulled and pinched at your brain, requiring patience, and now it is more immediate, but no less weird. Instead of collapsing into one another, ideas are given proper canvases.
Social Rust is a masterful act of trickery. The first half works through PC Worship’s most accessible material to date—”Odd” and “Behind the Picture” have heavy, visceral, hummable grooves with valleys and explosive swells. The hooks have a throbbing backbone; you could do a stoned headbang to them. “I’m feeling odd,” Frye and co. sing, in unison, over—relatively speaking—a thick, soaring grunge riff. The layered vocals are possessed by an otherness in their deranged multiplicity. “Odd” opens with caterwauling, terrifying shrieks, which sound ripped from a horror film, and most of the song glides through a calmly sinister, low-tone poem: “Smoke dripping, heat seaking, dust breathing.” “Picture” features a peculiar tempo change at its midpoint, racing off to an endless, kraut-shaped contortion. A lit, dragged cigarette opens the air-tight, claustrophobic highlight, “Rust”, which dirges with monotone, free-associating lyrics, capturing all of PC Worship’s best ideas in four minutes. (Amusingly, “Rust” features a hypnotizing swarm of atonal violin drones by the Dreebs’ Adam Markiewicz, who—on the other side of the dim-lit New York spectrum—also put down some of the sophisticated strings on Mr Twin Sister‘s recent clubby, cosmpolitan night-crawl.)
The mystical tape mutation of “Gypsy” opens with a creepy cackle, before summoning clouds of patchouli-scented incense smoke, and it paces Social Rust for the dusty strummer, “Baby in the Backroom”. “I look at everybody and think about hell/ I wonder if hell’s bad?” Frye subtly taunts over his most directly pleasing, wearied, and clear-sounding chorus, which still sounds like it ought to be blaring from a shitty boombox. And just then, this melodious side of Rust ducks out: a 44-second attack clears the way for a heavily-saturated closing trio of monolithic exercises in Swans-like endurance, ecstasy, venom, and dread. PC Worship ease listeners in with hooks, then whip them to a pulp.
There’s always humor in purposefully derailing a conventionally good thing, especially when it comes by way of quaking no-wave monsters. As such, PC Worship are committed to their ideas—or the perpetual destruction and rebirth of them—but they do not take themselves too seriously. When I saw them last, at the soon-defunct Williamsburg venue Death by Audio, cymbals were pushed over, pointillist sax blurts were mixed with manic cassette fuckery, and an acoustic guitar with at least one broken string was “prepared” using a crushed plastic cup.
Among PC Worship’s dizzying smatter of tapes and CD-Rs, Social Rust appears to be their fifth LP, but who knows? Their prolificacy seems intended to confuse. PC Worship are analog rock eccentrics who visibly enjoy skewing information—even basic details on their website can take the form of abstracted poetry, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they secretly released a whole unknown album on VHS tape with carrier-pigeon distribution. For a band so keen on obfuscation, the notion of making complex musical ideas more palatable isn’t just an aesthetic shift, but also an ideological one. Nonetheless, Social Rust proves that real experimentation does not require impenetrability at every turn. Referencing Meat Puppets, Frye writes in the credits, “I bought Too High to Die on CD from a thrift store and listened to it while I drove across the desert, then someone spilled Cherry Coke on it, which dried, sticky to the CD and I frisbeed it into a thunderstorm sunset outside of Phoenix.” Music is everywhere, and the expanses are chaotic, and understanding the cocophony of sound (and life) is futile. Now, though, freaks of all-ages and places can hear Social Rust and feel that giddy sense of hope crawling in their skin—these out-sounds are being twisted from someplace new.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/YVyxCO