When former Dropsonic frontman Dan Dixon released “River Song” last November, his first salvo under the newly established PLS PLS moniker, it was more than just a pleasant surprise. Not only did Dixon himself sound reinvigorated, but the song arrived alive and fully formed, devoid of the usual stumbles and imperfections that mar the opening gambits of most new bands. As the months passed and the project began to shift from a one man experiment to a flesh-and-blood band, the group released a string of singles that solidified PLS PLS as a multi-dimensional act capable of delivering on a variety of moods and sonic textures. While Dixon continued to play the musical and studio mastermind, playing and recording just about every instrument and sound on each song (minus the drums), it was clear he had a vision for each individual part and the role they needed to play in forming a comprehensive whole.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday when fans were finally able to get their hands on the band’s debut record, the five-song EP EP. Opening with the aforementioned “River Song” and continuing with the fiery “Here Come the Wolves,” the record starts off in familiar territory full of dark and stormy post-punk tension. There’s a bit of present day Radiohead’s jagged melodicism in there, along with some of their brooding shimmer and pulse, although, to be fair, Dixon and company prefer a much more groove-friendly approach that’s much less idiosyncratic. But it’s the band’s stirring take on Abner Jay’s “Cocaine” (featuring guest vocals from Elijah Jones of the Constellations) and the minimalist beauty of “60s Love Song” that are the most revealing here as each track has the band exuding a greater sense of emotional intimacy than I honestly thought possible. PLS PLS have proved all along they are adept at projecting a slithery and sexy cool; turns out they can do stark and elegant just as well.
As a closer, “Let’s Be Fake,” provides a nice bookend, one that allows EP EP to close on an energetic high note. In lesser hands, the shift back to the sultry fervor of the opening two tracks might come off as an afterthought, but the pacing of arguably the band’s best song couldn’t be more perfect. Overall this is a remarkable effort from a seasoned songwriter who implicitly understands how to command the mood and the moment. It may only be October, and we have three months left to go, but the Atlanta scene will be hard-pressed to turn out a better local record this year.
PLS PLS will celebrate the release of EP EP tonight at Star Bar. Supporting them will be Gun Party, the Sneaky Hand and Blaine the Mono. Doors at 9pm. Admission is FREE.
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Change doesn’t always have to be monumental; sometimes it’s the little tweaks and tiny shifts that are most effective. Opening with a gnashing desert rock riff, “Christian Cross,” the lead track from Wizard Smoke’s epic new two-song The Tickler EP, finally provides that lacerating stab-to-the-throat moment you always knew the local doom peddlers were capable of. It’s not a drastic movement away from the group’s core aesthetic, but there’s just enough searing heat on those guitars to lead you to believe that Wizard Smoke was about to turn in their usual cavernous thunder for some blistering four-on-the-floor lightning. As it turns out, all that furious forward momentum was merely a ploy to catch you off guard before the band flips the whole thing over and starts stomping on your chest with a series of hammering doom metal grooves. But the point is that the band reached for a new peak in their development, and they didn’t have to stretch themselves all that far to get there. The change-up is just enough to make the ten and a half minute procession of punishing riffs and James Halcrow’s blood-curdling screams seem that much more fresh and forceful.
“Old Snake,” on the other hand, finds the band starting and ending in their comfort zone, unleashing a portentous wave of monolithic low-end fury swimming in mind-bending psychedelic undertones. Call it mammoth, or colossal, or whatever manner of aggrandizement you can think of, the simple fact is that the track sounds huge (you can give some credit for that to Harvey Milk’s Kyle Spence, who handled the production duties). But beyond the song’s sheer distorted mass, there is a sinister bluesy swing here that lures the listener in and helps contribute to the track’s lingering feeling of unease. It’s a dirty, swampy, pummeling track that serves as a powerful reminder as to why Wizard Smoke remains one Atlanta’s most captivating underground metal acts.
Wizard Smoke will celebrate the release of The Tickler on Friday, October 5th at the Earl when they play in support of Big Business and House of Lightning. Doors open at 9pm. Admission is $12.