Pumice – ‘Puny’ [Review]

Pumice has a new album after a relative “lapse” of four years.  ‘Puny,’ as are the albums of Stefan Neville more generally, is a perfect example of how low-fidelity music makes a hit in spite of itself, the gentleperson’s respite from that community college called “song-writing.”  As comfortable with the skeleton of composition as early Smog, unfiltered at the surface as The Dead C, and deeply-ethereal as (recent split-mate) Grouper, Neville saves guitar music by demystifying it, ala Iran and Vini Reilly: starting strong with “Hey Crap Crab”, the blear is so totalizing as to nearly careen the Kiwi babble into his palindromic riff, inadvertently tintinabular and pump-activated.  At times sophisticated as the British definition of “weird”, “Ready to Rot” sounds like a recent Clinic session-outtake moaned through a sewer tunnel; recalling the latest Detective Instinct, “Coeliacs Bring a Plate” assumes the same twee stature and hothouse disjointment of Jad Fair; the twelve-minute shanty “Trophy” is an organ song deconstructed and spiritual as the music of Plinth and the like from Ireland’s Rusted Rail.  The instrumentality sinks in subtly as the disc continues, like “Covered in Spiders” arrives just in time for an Indian summer mixtape, side-by-side the ecstatic peace of Anvil Salute and napful bliss of Padang Food Tigers.  In ellipsis, Neville concludes the disc with the 10 minute “Cuachag Nan Craobh”, a traditional tune reinterpreted with a full stoner outfit playing their own blazing anthem on stretched tapes, acidic distortion, tubular traps, and an organ’s drone.  Four years well-worth the wait.  And happy 50th to the formidable Soft Abuse!  Recommended.

Soft Abuse CD/CS/LP

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