Pinkish Black – Pinkish Black

Here is another year end topper that I just plain forgot about. I knew of Pinkish Black’s self-titled debut since it was released on the most excellent Handmade Birds label, but I just never got around to it. Pinkish Black vocalist Daron Beck and drummer Jon Teague have been part of the Fort Worth, Texas underground scene for over a decade. They originally started really as three-piece called The Great Tyrant before tragedy struck in 2010, when long time friend and bassist Tommy Atkins died. This unfortunate event happened right in the middle of their tour which forced Beck and Teague to continue on as a two-piece called, yup, Pinkish Black. Two years later, they finally release their self-titled debut, make a few year end lists, and here we are.

The taxonomy of this record is hard to exactly pin down, think psychedelic post-rock meets sludge. But it’s more than just a condensed version of Om meets Aluk Tolodo. Let me explain, typically psychedelia and noise act more as ancillary than primary aural elements. But on Pinkish Black, psychedelia and noise are first-class citizens. Yet the record still maintains a sense of melody that doesn’t let the listener become hopelessly frustrated like on a Sunn O))) record. Each sample, each bit of noise, used on each of these seven glorious tracks, not only adds flavor but tightly integrates with the song’s core, helping to carry the listener off into a hazy oblivion. What absolutely amazes me is that despite being a two piece act, Beck and Teague are able to build this intensely heavy monolithic soundscape that seems to plod along at its own pace, with no rhyme or reason, yet never lingers too long and always has me completely engrossed. There is this hypnotic quality that pervades the whole album the makes it both intoxicating and addictive.

Opener “Bodies in Tow” immediately gives you a sense of the psychedelic journey you are about to embark on. Beck’s softly spoken chants are clearly meant for ambiance not lyrical epiphany, almost ethereal at times. Teague’s drumming provides the hand grips for you to hold onto when your magic carpet ride begins. About 3:30 in, once the Penny arcade keyboards join in on the fun, you start to let go and allow the pinkish black haze to completely immerse you. “Everything Went Dark” follows the same pattern as before but there is now a sense of urgency in Beck’s vocals. Though a wonderful 2 minute romp, the song is too short. It just simply doesn’t have enough time to build that immense girth all the other songs have on the album. If there is one weak spot on the whole album, it’s this song.

“Passerby” returns to form and is textbook post-rock. The song builds upon repetitious melodies and rhythms to weave a wonderfully complex aural tapestry that keeps you engaged throughout. Despite the dark imagery of “Fall Down,” there is an almost uplifting quality to it, before the song comes crashing down and abruptly ends. The heaviest use of psychedelia can be found on the track “Tell Her I’m Dead.” Here, Beck’s chants and bellows turn into all out screams amid the noise and chaotic drumming. If “Fall Down” had you feeling a bit of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” than “Tell Her I’m Dead” reaffirms that not all acid trips are good ones.

“Tastes like Blood” keeps us dazed and confused with an eerie piano opening that sets the tempo for the whole song. Slow and steady are the operative words here as the song trudges along carrying you with it.┬áThe album ends on a high note with “Against the Door.” Though similar in theme to the previous songs, the mid-section really has Beck and Teague let loose before our journey comes to an end. This was one of the few albums this year that as soon as I finished listening to it, I immediately went back and started my journey all over again knowing full well I didn’t completely comprehend what I just experienced.

Pinkish Black was engineered by Matt Barnhart at The Echo Lab and mastered by James Plotkin. As you can tell from my score, there isn’t really a fault to be found production wise on this entire album. Teague’s drums sound astounding – every cymbal hit is immaculately reproduced, the kick drums have impact, and every subtle rhythmical shift is right there, on display for your ears. As I stated, because Beck and Teague rely on a very spacious sound, they need a mix and master that really let’s the music breath. Luckily, Plotkin is a post-metal and noise veteran, who has worked with genre staples such as Sunn O))) and Pelican to name just a few. By maintaining a high level of dynamics, Plotkin allows the loud and soft parts to make their aural contributions as intended, giving the music greater depth and intensity. Well done sir, well done!

If I would have discovered Pinkish Black a week ago, it would surely be on my Top 10 list. Mea culpa. Regardless, you owe it to yourself to visit their Bandcamp page and give this album a whirl. It truly is one of the best releases of the year. Highly recommended.

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