Ecstasy of a Different Variety
Austin trio Pure X used to be Pure Ecstasy, but had a little copyright trouble with a cover band from San Francisco. Conveniently enough, both “X” and “ecstasy” in this day and age suggest euphoric dancefloor escapades and sweaty comedowns. Their album Pleasure isn’t fast-paced—quite the opposite, it’s one of the laziest records in recent memory, drawing comparisons to Galaxie 500 and Real Estate with the clarifying point of “but slower.” The title and cover art’s rose, leather, chains, and cuffs suggest this could be bedroom music. That may be true, but only for certain, slightly twisted lovers.
Full of reverb, Pleasure is a guitar album where the subdued but marvelous bass line plays more of a supporting role, and the languid drumming rarely picks up the pace. In fact, the pedals and monitors expertly tweaked by Nate Grace practically become a fourth instrument. To their credit, Pure X created this record off the cuff with no overdubs, challenging their listeners to find the beauty in the so-called mistakes and chinks. What may be the album’s ultimate bummer is that it’s a bit repetitive: singles and radically different tunes are hard to find. After listening to it over and over, you realize that you probably just ride the wave of visceral guitar sensuality. The standout on the record is the longest and probably slowest song, “Surface.” The light guitar notes ripple and soar, finding new life as they wander.
Vocals are not the focus here, though they do have their own beauty. Furthermore, they get treated in much the same way as the guitars. Words are injected with new life through drifting falsetto and effortlessly-added echo. The opening tracks show the power of these effects, especially in “Dream Over” where a little Beach Boys haze feels present. Portishead comes to mind in the power Pure X evoke through darkly effective pacing, but there’s no scratching or modern-flavored beat treatment here. There’s no question that there are many moments of pleasure on Pleasure, it’s just a matter of looking for them. If you’re a tripped-out, scuzzy summer shoegazer, these songs are going to rock your world for many a late night.