If You Make a Lot of Ceramics; Ceramics Will Make a Lot of You as Well
Woke Up Inside a Drum
I'm Glad I'm Sad
Little Friend from the Wild
In just 8 tracks, Pilemil have managed to create a little world all their own.
There's an immediate warm-and-fuzziness about this lovingly packaged 8-track album. If it's not the intimate honesty of the deadpan-delivered vocals or the squelchy synth-pop throughout, it's perhaps got something to do with the small paper note enclosed with the album, encouraging the listener to 'please support our small record label' (Metronomicon Audio, a small Oslo-based outfit established in 2001 that prides itself on opposing the commercialism and vanity of the music industry).
The small-scale, unforced sound that is Pilemil seems a perfect fit for such a label. Their MySpace page claims that their music is a thrash/Chinese pop fusion, which is hopefully some kind of in-joke. While my personal knowledge of Chinese pop is somewhat limited, I can safely say that Pilemil and thrash would not have much to say to each other at a party. Pilemil is a little new wave, a little indie-pop, even psychedelic at times... they'd make easy friends with kids from the NYC Williamsburg scene, perhaps with Grizzly Bear or Liars, (before they headed for LA) or even some of the less self-consciously cool artists based out of Oregon, like the supremely underrated Scout Niblett.
According to the Metronomicon site, the artists on their label have complete control of their album artwork, so it's quite handy that Pilemil's past life was that of a group of visual artists and craftsmen. The artwork continues in the vein of the album's title as an homage to ceramics. This link to such a hands-on, organic practice ties in closely with the album's sound itself.
With lyrics like "smuggled with the squirrels into town" and "a couple of clouds was more than enough for my old brain", the world Pilemil create is one of inviting cosy autumn afternoons by the fire, lounging with a bunch of brandy-drinking buddies on that fluffy orange and green 70's rug you found at Nana's. It's not an album that expects to get a raging party started, it's far too mellow and unpredictable for that. The first, (and best known) track on the album Woke Up Inside A Drum is also the most confident and accomplished track on the album, and does well to establish where the album's headed.
The second and third tracks continue the warm, meandering, giddy sounds, that could almost be comforting in an intoxicated way, were it not for some of the more sobering lyrics, high in the mix: "in a thousand years we maybe can be friends again". There's some pain definitely lurking in the corners of what is relentlessly bright, sweet instrumentation.
Orly Cowboy and Overwith Overwith are very reminiscent of (US three-piece) Blonde Redhead's sound both instrumentation-wise and in vocal delivery. Again, there is a strong bittersweetness in the contrast of the sounds and the content of the lyrics - a simultaneous feeling of distance and intimacy. While the vocal delivery on Ghost remains deadpan and emotionally controlled, it comes across as the most personal and reflective song on the album, another definite highlight and one that may even get you and your brandy-drinking buddies on your feet and pulling some dance moves on that fluffy 70's rug.
In just 8 tracks, Pliemil have managed to create a little world all their own, which is definitely deserving of more than just this one quick visit to this sonic cottage at the edge of the woods. That said, while Ceramics does satisfy, there's a distinct feeling that Pilemil might have a few more tricks up their sleeves for the next one.
Awaiting with curiosity...