There is an exuberance throughout Pariuh’s debut album that is among the most refreshing qualities I’ve heard in a punk album in some time. Certainly, there has been no shortage of great punk music in recent years, especially of the art-damaged and no wave variety. It is as though a group of outsider artists are tapping into a bleak vision with maximal ferocity and a stated goal of burying the original movement. So, on their Moniker Records debut, Passed Lives’ Excessive Future, Miami group Pariuh swing punk into the opposite direction, delivering synthetic tunes that are as bright as possible.
One of the reasons the album is so bright is the clear production of keys, synthesizers, and what appears to be synth bass, among other noises. Those bass frequencies serve a droning quality behind the short, sweet tunes, sometimes lending a cut its fuzz (“Mickey Mouse”), other times driving a tune to its dancefloor destination (“Sad Song”). The bass also lends an alien feel that allows the other instruments free reign to freak out as much as possible within the confines of a well-defined pop tune. As a result, Pariuh consistently cycle between freeform oddities and clearly controlled convention, which helps the listener grab onto their familiar aspects (pop-punk / glam / art punk) while also readily traveling to Pariuh’s own world. By presenting other key and synthetic tones through clear production, the band accomplish this duality of familiarity and otherworldliness with a playful sound.
Accompanying the vinyl edition is a series of inserts and pamphlets that discuss “excessive future,” which alternately establishes an additional world and a sense of purpose for Pariuh. This is a concept album in the purest form of that word, as the group are actively sharing a vision of one particular ideal or terms of exploration. The listener can read along on one side, following the lyrics through rumination that hides beneath the bright and fast-paced sounds. On the other side, the listener can peruse a marathon across a realigned United states of America, which effectively supports the ideal that Pariuh are traveling along uncanny terrain. Pariuh work directly with their listener through these supplemental materials, allowing one to consider their lost friends or secrets of passed lives and the new purpose that excessive future can bring. But this is only my interpretation; I gather that these materials will lend a different experience to each listener, which means that Pariuh expands their singular terrain and repurposed geographies in a manner that is accessible to Mind or the unhinged alike. It’s difficult to scratch this surface alone, in even a series of listens, but one gets the sense that Passed Lives’ Excessive Future is some triumph of vitality within crushing sadness and existence.
The group present their playful vision instantly and in dramatic fashion: album opener “Humiliated and Insulted” dives in with huge distorted hits, driven by perfectly modulated guitar. The tone sounds chorused and thick, but produced with a certain sheen and glassy quality. By the time the chord hits resolve into an arpeggio doubled by synths and guitar, the listener is easily dragged into the fray. Pariuh write songs that are progressive in structure, as they infrequently return to the past. Instead, songwriting turns often introduce new tempo hikes or a shift in instrumental timbre. For example, “Humiliated and Insulted” leaps from that smooth glassy drama of the opening to bouncy and vibrant segments. The bass and keys play foils, as booming, heavy low frequencies tug against trebly staccato keys. The hyper songwriting shifts make this album perfect for repeat listens, for often the listener must return later if they want to hear their favorite parts again. As a result, this album is completely obsession-worthy: dive into those 30 second segments, and wonder at their brilliant assembly into catchy, complete works.
My favorite example of these shifts are on “Phone Head,” which begins the second side with another dramatic opening. This one is slow building with a rise-and-return pattern, only to be bludgeoned by the oncoming speed of the punky song itself. Vocalist and writer Chris Dougnac obliterates the microphone with modulation or effects that slice and obscure the message, while complementing the frantic instrumental performances. Almost as suddenly as the song kicks in, there’s another stop-and-turn, and a decompressing closing sequence that blossoms from those cramped proceedings. By cloaking the vocals in effects throughout the album, the group ups the intensity of recent pitch-shifting efforts by Jack Name, or even invoking the high timbre vocals of Tripping Daisy at their best and most rocking moments (these are only two examples). There is an alien quality to the voice, as a result, which ensures that the listener never quite knows their singer; in turn, the lyrics sheet and supplemental materials become an intriguing looking glass into the guts of this material. It doesn’t seem right to call this “progressive” rock, but Pariuh converse in progressive songs through their tempo shifts, unorthodox structures, and layered and diverse instrumentation. As a result, Pariuh speak to no genre in particular, as their punk inclinations also owe nothing to the gods of that movement, and the same can be said for progressive rock proper, as well.
In terms of label vision, Pariuh also lend their hand for one of Moniker Records’ most ambitious release schedules in terms of sonic directions. 2016 has already seen JeaLousy’s powerhouse return with Paid For It, which expanded on their previous Moniker debut. Pariuh pushes forward the punk directions of the label while perfectly splitting Rollin Hunt and Toupee, adding a glamorous sheen to the latter act’s wicked Leg Toucher. Alongside the forthcoming Desire Will Set You Free soundtrack, the electric / dance tendencies of Pariuh also find a far out label partner. It’s been nearly five years since I interviewed Moniker founder Robert Cole Manis for Foxy Digitalis, in which Robert noted his love for great hooks while pushing for backstory: “I go after a backstory. It adds fuel to the fire…No doubt there are great records out there that stand on their own but in some cases, it needs that touching tale to garner people’s interest….There’s also a fascination with chaos that’s applied in choosing what I want to put out. I like weird vibes, stuff that’s a bit off the beaten track or strange” (October 2, 2011). It’s hard not to think of Pariuh as an excellent expansion of this label vision, and in the context of their own label, Pariuh’s debut becomes one with an ongoing story of amazing pop sensibility and a true search for the “other side” of the earth. Goodness willing we are closer to realizing and upholding the oddest tendencies of reality, and both Moniker and Pariuh uphold this ethic in their own projects.
Passed Lives’ Excessive Future will be available via Moniker Records on August 26.