By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
In the two-plus years since Atkins' death, Pinkish Black has continued redefining itself. The original set was supplanted almost immediately by new material, and since then, Beck and Teague have continued writing at a furious pace. Over the years, they've developed a good working relationship with engineer Matt Barnhart at Denton's Echo Lab, and their mutual respect is evident in the sympathetic framing he gives their sound on the LP.
The album's seven tracks run just over 33 minutes; Teague thinks that's optimal for the average human's attention span. The orchestrated doom-metal of "Bodies In Tow" maps out the territory that Pinkish Black will explore, from the opening washes of Beck's synthesizer to the crushing heaviness of the beat, reinforced by a grinding bass line played on the keyboard. Here and elsewhere, when Beck plays his synth obbligatos, the presence of Doug Ferguson is palpable. Listening, it's sobering to realize that just two musicians created this monolith of sound.
When the material was still in its developing stages, Beck and Teague joked that every song on the album would be called "Everything Went Dark." That track opens with a vocal snippet the band uses as background noise between songs when they perform live, giving way to a sinister waltz with a cinematic sound. "Passerby" begins with an icy synth ostinato before the drums enter, a heavy kick-snare figure contrasting with filigree cymbal work. The groove builds relentlessly, while Beck's chanted vocal paints a picture of a desolate inner landscape.
"Fall Down" pummels the listener with backing so turbulent it's possible to miss the soaring melody until the second or third spin. "Tell Her I'm Dead" is the most brutal, culminating in anguished shrieks. "Tastes Like Blood" is the album's zenith, a masterful example of light and shade, its simple piano-and-untreated-voice intro giving way to a majestically ascending finale. "Against the Door" ends the album on a discordant note, juxtaposing an insistent riff and punishing drums with an arcing long-tone melody. When it ends abruptly, you'll breathe a sigh of relief, then reach to restart the record. The influence that dare not speak its name here is pop.
"Standard song structures just work," Beck stresses. "You can add weirdo aesthetics and textures or anything you want on top of that. It's all just music. If I can listen to Magma, then put on the Three Suns or Dionne Warwick, then maybe somebody else can, too. We don't want to be genre-ified."
Beck pauses, then adds, "Darker music just lasts longer. It speaks to everyone on a deeper level. Everyone experiences sadness or melancholy feelings — a sense that something is missing here — on a more regular basis than they do happiness.
"Maybe hearing music like ours lets them know they're not alone."