PAS is a quartet of artists experimenting in the audio/visual realm though the two recordings that we’re covering here are strictly on the aural level. PAS was Born in 1995 out of Brooklyn, New York through the circuit-bent mind of one Robert L. Pepper. While guest musicians have been known to come and go rapidly through PAS, the project for both of these releases has at least featured additional permanent members in Amber Brien, Jon “Vomit” Worthley, and Michael Durek. It appears that the great Strings of Consciousness artist Philippe Petit also took part in “Flanked by Women and Pumpkins” in some way, shape or form, and though it isn’t the case for either of these releases, PAS has been known to collaborate with the likes of Z’ev, Hati, Steve Beresford (Stuart Barefoot, The Circuit) and Thomthom Geigenschrey (ex-The Renderers) just to name a few. Though relatively unknown outside of their New York actions for the Experi-MENTAL festival, this project has put out at least 9 full-length albums and performed in at least eight different countries. The name itself stands for “Post Abortion Stress” and, though it perhaps immediately brings up many alarming thoughts or emotions for many of our more conservative readers, the project name is indeed a metaphor towards those individuals whom find themselves ‘aborted’ by society — more information regarding the several faces of the name can be found on their myspace page.
The music of PAS contains elements from acoustic instruments to experimental electronics and genre-specific moments range everywhere from ambient to industrial to nearly post-rock moments, but always with a very explicit and prominent experimental edge. “Travel into”, for example, contains a rhythmic electro backbone that lies buried in the mix behind heavily processed singular vocals and a hymnal choir further beyond that which ends up leading, in the end, to flanging electronics and a largely unnoticeable distorted bassline. Some tracks like “Honour” last for less than a minute in a visceral haunting solitude before descending back into nothingness and giving way to the next track. “Hope” is an exceptional work of atmosphere that is, ironically, perhaps the most bleak sounding composition on the entire disc and clocks in at just under one minute, 15 seconds. The following track, however, “Melancholy Drink Coaster”, is exactly what is advertised and is decidedly sombre in approach with a slight aura of weirdness. This track even features bagpipes and clocks in at nearly 7 minutes, showing the full scope of music available here. “Faith” follows up immediately with a noisy industrial affair that borders on the harsh side of things. “Piano Music for Volcano Eruption” begins as strange as any other track through sound manipulation strangeness, but quickly evolves into one of the more beautiful and emotive / expressive ambient tracks to be featured on PEOS. More subtle industrial and rhythmic influences can be found on “Production of Souls” whereas tracks like “Love” give off a minimal and unique tribal attitude.
It should go without saying then that PAS is music for the most eclectic of souls, likely to be enjoyed by fans of the likes of Edward Ka-spel, The Residents, Larsen, and the vast majority of other outcasts amongst the outcasts. The first album here, “Pure Energy Output Sessions”, from the very start seems to be a work of psychic solidarity. Of course the energy that comes out of music is implied immediately from the front cover, but the rest of the images in the album all contain photographs of the band’s members either with heads close together as they’re sprawled out on the floor having a good time, or in a nearly ceremonial moment where they connect to one another by covering each other’s cranium with what appear to be matching feather-fans. The only exception involves a telescope and Amber Brien looking out towards the window that it looks through, implying a kind of sonic astral projection towards the cosmos that reminds of the closing sentiments of the track “Sin” that simply speaks “a star falls…”. Of course, these are all simply implications and observations on my part, but it still feels obvious that there’s something almost spiritual going on here with these four musicians, even if only on a subconscious level.
“Flanked by Women and Pumpkins”, in its defiant stance to have its own sound, starts out in a very dark manner with an array of background screeching and foreground shifting tones that simply sound like an array of screaming lost in mix with one another, though the sound is also reminiscent of, when focused on, cutting through wood with a buzzsaw. Track two features the return of the flange distortion and a much more structured sound than was featured on the previous effort. Even in its weirdness, “Telepathic Rain Race” seems to have a very genuine beat and traditional song pattern, even down to a 4/4 time signature. “Inner Ear Echo Imbalance” is nearly ethereal and shoegazing in sound with some unfortunate knocking textures that nearly ruin the track and which represent literally the one questionable moment in the entirety of any composition on both discs. The track featuring “Ekeim 1000.220″ is strongly removed in experimental character and instead exists in the world of dark ambient, drifting endlessly through a foggy aural texture and garbled radio static. They waste no time getting back to the strange sci-fi implications and sound experimentation with “Electron Accelerator” though, utilizing an array of strange unstructured sound and processed vocals — a style which is prominent through much of the rest of the album.
The second album, “Flanked by Women and Pumpkins” is infinitely more arty, but still manages to show that solidarity from the first album, just on a less spiritual, visceral, or psychic level. It seems more technical and, in a way, fun for the artists at hand — at least certainly less serious though there was indeed an element of laughter present in the photographs on “Pure Energy Output Sessions”. That said, it’s also more colorful and vibrant in tone which can’t help but be implied through the power of suggestion in the artwork. Where PEOS was dreamy and pastel in sound, the experimentation and beauty weave around each other on “Flanked by Women and Pumpkins” in a way that simply pops out of the mix more clearly and has more character on a track-by-track basis. It’s also, as can be expected, far more structured and organized than its predecessor, making it ultimately less interesting as a whole on an experimental level. Part of the charm of “Pure Energy Output Sessions” was never knowing what type of track you were going to hear next, in any way. Perhaps the largest high point of FBWAP was the fact that it had a noticeably larger inclination towards field recordings, something which gave the music more depth.
“Pure Energy Output Sessions”
02) Travel Into
04) Explanation without Words
06) Melancholy Drink Coaster
08) Piano Music for Volcano Eruption
10) Production of Souls
12) Sadness of Happiness
14) Scratch Echo
15) Sunrise of the Dormant Mind
17) The Uprising into Balance
“Flanked by Women and Pumpkins”
01) Electric Rain on Adams Bridge
02) Telepathic Rain Race
03) Inner Ear Echo Imbalance
04) Volker Goes to Spain (feat. Ekeim 1000.220)
05) Electron Accelerator
06) Vacationing Beat
07) Incredible Day for Natives
08) It is. Is it?
09) Sonic Sleighride through Coalmines
10) Horror Noir on a Sunny Day
11) The Search for Stickgirl
12) The Dramatic Exit
Double Features are only written on albums that are released separately from one another.