Over the past decade, few experimental groups have been as intriguing and unclassifiable as Peeesseye. They began in Brooklyn in 2002 under the name Perfect Salvation Initiation, which became PSI, then pee-ess-eye, and finally their current moniker. Those changes may seem trivial, but they're kind of like the group's music, which constantly changes shape without losing its essence. Noise, jazz, metal, electronica, psych, and folk drift through their work, in combinations that blur such labels. Yet as hard as it is to tag Peeesseye, it's pretty easy to recognize them in every sound they make.
That's probably because, unlike many experimental groups, Peeesseye have never been a rotating collective. Though they've pursued numerous side projects and collaborations, Chris Forsyth, Jaime Fennelly, and Fritz Welch have been the only members from the start. On their seventh full-length, Pestilence & Joy, the instinctive communication the trio has developed is obvious. This might be their most consistent record yet-- chiming guitar chords, subtle drones, and heavy beats pop up in almost every track. There are moments of unruly splatter, but for the most part the album deals in a kind of symphonic minimalism, using repetition to transform simple sounds into tense atmospheres.
This effect is clearest on "HHH", whose big crashes and howls land somewhere between an opera and a horror movie. But it also shows up on less dramatic pieces, like the freewheeling "See, Let Us"-- imagine a basement version of Boredoms' Super æ-- or "Zoltan Redux", whose acoustic strums approach the bombast of a Glenn Branca composition. This may all sound a little dogmatic, but Peeesseye never lets their approach get predictable. The trio sounds as open to happy accidents as they were when they first started playing together. It helps that Pestilence & Joy is an amalgam of studio material and live recordings, woven into narrative shapes much the way John Fell Ryan molds Excepter's raw material into loose songs.
Peeesseye have something else in common with Excepter-- a tendency to confound expectations in ways that can confuse even their peers. On Pestilence & Joy, the surprise comes at the end. One band member jokingly berates a Swiss crowd-- "How come no one in Switzerland knows how to clap?"-- and goads them into rhythmic applause. The band turns that clapping into the beat of the title track, which winds from folky sing-along to surreal samples to ranting sermons. The song is an odd mix of serious drama and arch comedy-- not exactly what you'd expect from an album of improvised experiments. But it does sound like Peeesseye, and at this point that matters a lot more.
-Marc Masters, Pitchfork 7/26/10
released July 5, 2010
Peeesseye is Jaime Fennelly, Chris Forsyth, & Fritz Welch
with Richy Midnight & Seamus Cater on (8), and Alex Baggeley on (5)
Recorded at STEIM, Amsterdam, and also
St. Annes-on-Sea, Geneva, Bologna, Genova, Linz, Basel and Rome.
(4) & (8) mixed by Richy Midnight
Mastered by Scott Colburn
Drawing by Ronaldo Wright
Sculpture by Matt Bua & Jesse Bercowetz
Chris Forsyth is a lauded guitarist and composer. He’s recently released a string of acclaimed records of widescreen art
rock, and in 2013, assembled The Solar Motel Band, who have quickly developed a reputation as an incredible live act, provoking ecstatic comparisons to visionary artists such as Television, the Grateful Dead, Popul Vuh, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and Richard Thompson....more