There’s an overall creepy vibe lingering on Pit Er Pat’s debut for Thrill Jockey, Shakey. There’s a drawing of a skull made of spiders, the band’s name spelled out in flies, a crow carrying an eyeball in its beak and several more skulls shaped by the lyrics to the art-rock trio’s songs. And that’s just the cover art! Still, maybe it’s just because I can’t stand to be around insects, but I get a severe case of the heebie jeebies when looking at this stuff. The music itself, however, carries a similarly eerie vibe, though one that’s far easier to take in. And with repeated listens, proves far more rewarding than staring at arachnoid visual formations.
Sounding similar to the warped art punk of New Yorkers Blonde Redhead, Pit Er Pat begins a new chapter of oddly noisy and edgy signings to the otherwise post-rock leaning Thrill Jockey records. And Pit Er Pat, themselves, are somewhat of a logistical idiosyncrasy, made up of a classically trained pianist, a founding member of The Alkaline Trio and a Neutral Milk Hotel collaborator. But, as you can imagine, the music on Shakey, named after the band’s previous moniker, isn’t anything like Elephant 6, classical piano compositions or hardcore. Though there are elements of baroque, punk rock and psychedelic pop, they somehow twist into something more mysterious and odd.
One sure thing about Pit Er Pat is that they are, musically, quite impressive. Fay Davis-Jeffers plays some slyly creepy keyboard melodies, while Rob Doran’s slithering basslines twist and turn around Butchy Fuego’s hyperactive drum syncopation. Furthermore, anybody named Butchy Fuego is totally cool in my book. Songs like “Bird” and “Gated Community” are sonically reminiscent of Blonde Redhead’s more recent noir pop or Deerhoof’s jazzy post-rock. Fuego’s cymbal work creates a repetitive crashing sound on the intro to “Uh-Oh,” developing an ominous oncoming swarm-like tension. And likewise, the ensuing melody is tense but enjoyable, as Davis-Jeffers’ stoic voice levitates over the slinky melodies.
Pit Er Pat never deviates from their instrumental set-up, and within these constraints, they manage to create some of the most intriguing art-rock I’ve heard in some time. With only three instruments and two voices, this trio plays truly challenging music that’s cerebral and, of course, melodically interesting. Still, I’m curious as to where they’ll go next from here. One might ponder what would happen if another instrument were to enter the picture. It could broaden their horizons, but depending on who you ask, it could be cheating.
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.