P.E.‘s ecstatic 2020 debut Person overflowed with the kind of inspiration that can’t be carefully planned. Essentially the result of happenstance—members of Pill and Eaters (hence: P.E.) forming a new band when the full lineups of either band weren’t available for a scheduled live show—Person was a product of electricity and spontaneity, its industrial post-punk grooves born of improvised sessions and dancepunk jams that, when given the hypnotic surrealist poetry of Veronica Torres and the saxophone sparkle of Benjamin Jaffe, transcend the idea of punk jam session, turning to avant garde pop gems with just the right amount of polish and editing.
On their second album, The Leather Lemon, P.E. begin with a similar set of tools and a comparatively loose approach, but where they end up feels a bit different than their previous lab experiment. They carve out deeper grooves and mine darker textures, reveling in a kind of intoxicated, nocturnal exhilaration—these songs aren’t so much heavier as denser, all of the elements that came together on Person now calcifying into crystallized solid.
The first song on The Leather Lemon, “Blue Nude (Reclined)”, is something of a showpiece. Its hypnotic two-note bassline rarely if ever changes, but its minimalist pulse provides a textured canvas against which Jaffe’s sax runs wild, while drum-machine handclaps clack and snap, and Torres peppers the song with playfully oblique statements like “French kiss to keep the peace.” But it has both direction and momentum, structured for club play as much as it is for the headphones—as long as P.E. keep moving, there’s no reason why you should stop.
Where Person felt in large part like the paring down of musical ideas that were made for extended 12-inch mixes—or the fragments of such—the tracks on The Leather Lemon feel tighter and more streamlined, even as the band largely avoids conventional song structures. For the most part, that is; the funk-and-clang industrial banger “Contradiction of Wants” actually includes two proper bridges. And the gorgeous centerpiece of the album, sleek sophisti-pop ballad “Tears in the Rain,” featuring Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage, is P.E. at their most adaptable, embracing a sleek kind of beauty that feels both fresh yet true to their aesthetic. It’s sublime.
As deep as P.E. have immersed themselves in hypnotic groove, there’s still a lot on The Leather Lemon that speaks to their unpredictable and experimental origins, be it the percussive cacophony of “New Kind of Zen,” ambient piano track “86ed,” or the breakbeat minimalism of “Lying With the Wolf.” At their weirdest or their most propulsively focused, though, there’s a physicality that seems to suggest their acronym isn’t limited to one literal meaning. P.E. are always in motion.
Label: Wharf Cat
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.