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Pleasurehorse - Bareskinrug

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Artist: Pleasurehorse

Album: Bareskinrug

Label: Load

Review date: Apr. 9, 2003

Sounds Laid Bare

There’s been a rapid increase over the past few years in tagging stylistic shifts within the worlds of electronic music. Mostly I’m thinking of stuff that gets labeled as “indietronica” or “folktronica”, stuff that generally seeks to mine introspective songwriting or sparse acoustics while mating it within the clicks and cuts set. So, would “punktronica” be a useful term then for describing those laptop-capable folks with strong ties and influences in American DIY punk (namely people like Kid 606, Cex, et al.)? Maybe, maybe not. There is, however, something undeniable about the links between some more creative electronic output of recent years and punk aesthetics. When you think about it, pirated software and unauthorized samples are to this era what three chords and sped-up tempos were to the late ’70s and early ’80s: a means of granting one’s self access to the inaccessible. Whereas electronic music used to be left either to the academy, the dance floor, or mopey pop kids, software music has given almost anyone with almost any particular bent a means of expressing themselves. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to see Providence-based Load Records, normally considered a stalwart for cracked experiments in rock-based chaos, releasing music by folks such as Forcefield; it mines a very similar aesthetic but with entirely different sources of sound generation. Bareskinrug, the first long player from Pleasurehorse, continues in that vein of electronic noise terrorism. While not as conceptually or sonically inventive as the much heralded Rogga Boggas disc, there’s plenty contained in this album’s 33 minutes to keep the listener occupied and hint at more exciting things to come.

“Bareskinrug” leads off the record and firmly implants Pleasurehorse’s calling card – the usual suspects of pounding drum samples and scattered bass lines mixed with generous shots of white noise and crackling static. It resembles a less-random application of techniques favored by the likes of Marcus Popp’s oval project; every sound is wrenched from its source and microprocessed into a barrage of beats, skips, clangs, and all out noise. “Princest” favors thudding bass over skittering beats that sound like they’ve been run through an Ultimate Chopper. “Pinkpageuh” has more of a percussive element, also adding hints of ambient noir drones that peek in and out of the maelstrom. “Copleash” sounds almost like a more rhythmic Merzbow, creating layers of digital noise from relentlessly sliced-and-diced drum patterns. Drum-and-bass phrases pop out of the chaos for seconds at a time only to be submerged almost instantly into the swells. “Treasure” sounds maybe what Aphex Twin might have evolved into were it not for raves and/or acid house – thudding, quasi-rhythmic beats working in tandem with laser blasts of sound.

“Laitbait” sounds a bit different from some of the other material contained here. This one relies less on chaotic explosion and more on a gradually developing tension between a thudding, arrhythmic bass drum heartbeat and the mechanic whirring in the background that gradually gives way to some clipped drones. “Bulletbaggi” features snippets of more organic sounding percussion placed in contrast against higher end sound patterns. “Pusch Da Busch” is one of the best tracks on here. It’s the only one that allows a rhythm to proceed without immediate dismantlement, with more creative, flowing drones pulsing in and around the fringes of the central rhythmic figure. Things break down again and again, but that same basic pattern always returns, allowing Pleasurehorse to mix things up again in a different way. The disc closes with “Strawberry Azzus”, another great track that combines a thudding rhythm with processed cymbal sounds and a steadily thumping low end throb.

The only major problem on Bareskinrug is that Pleasurehorse’s first release inevitably feels much longer than its actual run time. While there are a lot of interesting ideas and wonderfully peculiar sounds scattered throughout, at times the tracks all tend to blur together without achieving their own distinct voices. Many feel like rehashes of material already covered within the first few minutes of the record. The sounds and styles contained herein, however, are still intriguing and a worthy addition to Load’s already stellar roster. With a more developed sense of purpose, and a subtler nuance and mastery of all the various directions one could go, this disc hints that future releases by Pleasurehorse could be doozies. For now, Bareskinrug’s visceral nature will appeal to Lightning Bolt or Black Dice fans already intrigued by electronic manipulation. One can’t help but wonder what other glorious and terrifying sounds lay waiting at the intersection of Hardcore Punk and Digital.

By Michael Crumsho

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