An Intriguing Collaboration
There’s something enticing about a new band composed of artists from other established acts, all with distinct sounds. How will the distinguished influences of each individual meld into a singular product? When considering the indie pop background that is most prevalent in the group, Pfarmers, the end result is not what you expect. The band’s first album, Gunnera, was released on May 12, 2015 under Joyful Noise Records.
The artists associated with the so-called indie rock “super group” are far more recognizable than their obscure, yet intriguing sound. Pfarmers is the collaboration of multi-instrumentalist Dave Nelson (Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent and David Byrne), singer/percussionist Danny Seim (Menomena), and percussionist Bryan Devendorf (The National). Nelson’s horns are prevalent in the entirety of the tracks, adding atmospheric back tones to some songs, such as “El Dorado,” while being the centerpiece to others like “The Ol’ River Gang.” The energetic drumming of Devendorf maintains some remnants of the assumed indie-pop influence.
The album opens with an expansive seven-minute song called “Benthos.” The introspective piece is an ambient mix of ominous horns and synthesizers that bleeds directly into the next track “You Shall Know the Spirit.” The smooth, distinct voice of Seim is introduced singing “When the spirit moves inside of me / You’ll know because I’ll stop breathing.” These abstruse, spiritual and seemingly biblical lyrics are Seim’s staple to the album. The anthem-like chorus of “How to Build a Tube” seems reminiscent of Seim’s work in Menomena.
The previously released single and standout track of the album is “The Ol’ River Gang.” Nelson’s horns preside over the track, composing a staccato baseline, as well as being the driving force behind the melody of the song. Devendorf and Nelson expertly intertwine their instrumentation, with horns playing intermittently with the drum line.
The individuals that make up Pfarmers are without a doubt, tremendously accomplished musicians. That being said, the unique work, Gunnera, is greater than the sum of its parts.