P.E. release their debut album, Person this week on Wharf Cat Records. We’d previously spoken about “Top Ticket” in November 2019 – back when the album was announced. And now here we are, getting into the thick of it.
Person is a profoundly dense album. Twelve tracks, each laden with the sense of multi-option ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ textures. There’s a pleasing sense of disorientation about the strata of instrumentation.
Layer upon layer, treatment upon treatment. Horns stab in over electronic beats, vocal tracks lend light as much as they bring lyric. Jonathan Schenke is in the producer’s seat, and he allows space to each element – nailing the mix so we’re not overwhelmed by some wall of sound nonsense. Instead, we’re offered the melodic equivalent of a ready-mix concrete truck hurtling through a city. Movement in all directions, incredible gyrations of power, incredible control. Wait. We don’t say that as criticism. This is high praise. How does this shit even happen? Have you ever even considered the engineering logistics? Sounds like Schenke looks, or listens to the heart of the blueprint.
P.E. is a band containing Veronica Torres, Benjamin Jaffe, and Jonathan Campolo – all from the art-punk outfit Pill. Here they have bonded with Schenke and Bob Jones of electronic post-punk band, Eaters. Borne from a sequence of improvised or freeform processes – the result is a project that moves in all directions and carries no small ambition.
Across the sequence each song is sympathetically assembled. The space each artists affords the other is audible. All noises are celebrated. And then, across each track, everything is dismantled to review a pleasing, skeletal groove. For all of this dynamic range, and all the noises on display – the central force here is sharply focused and deeply rewarding.
Track titles are all equally emotive, illusive and alluring. Is there an inclination to back room activities? “Pink Shiver”, “Dirty Plumage” “Lovers Lane”, “Soft Dance”, “Shimmy” – to name a handful, each carry suggestive possibilities. But, as with the instrumentation, any direct address of definition is more nodded toward than explicitly laid out.
Even when we hear the demand “I want the top ticket” recited like a mantra, there’s a feeling that the meaning of the phrase, and each word within it, shifts meaning. It’s pretty good. What a ride.
There’s a healthy solemnity to the tone of Person. But for a band that some have described as ‘experimental’ there’s none of the self-seriousness that others can lean in on. Oftentimes, when a band is described as ‘alternative’ or ‘experimental’ the music is devoid of celebration, joy, humanity. But Person has each of those elements in abundance. A seriousness about the work is evidenced, but a lightness of self is also heard. Egos are there, but they offer a sense of inclusion.
Person, in the purest definition, is a debut album. However, it’s a mature product that exhibits each of the band’s pedigree and approach to craft; it enjoys the genetic evolution of all previous projects. The album hits all of its shifting targets, and for all the talk of machinery, electronics, and experimentation, at it’s center it delivers what we need most of all. Heart, and fucking soul.
HURRY – PREORDER/BUY – P.E. MUSIC