Pygmy – Remember Nelson

Remember Nelson

Like Hella, Pygmy performs with a high degree of technical ability without sounding clinical. Their human touch comes through by being just as in control of dynamic elements and textures as they are with running through different scales, modes, and time changes. While the band doesn’t come across as being humble, their music’s purpose extends beyond simply showing off their talents. This is epitomized by the paradoxical vocals, which are emotive yet not as varied or skillful in musical terms as any of the other instruments. The focus is purely on expressive ability, which sometimes works as a contrast to what the rest of the band is doing (especially when the band lapses into the occasional unnecessarily complex instrumental passage), while at other times, fuses in synergy with them – whispering expletives while the band blasts through a run in a muted understated manner – or subtly building into crescendo as the guitars stomp their distortion to life.

“Remember Nelson” begins with a section that has a pompous yet urgent feel, bringing to mind both Bach and the Minutemen. The vocals chime in with a nasal delivery familiarized by decades of SoCal pop-punk. Another shift, and the instruments shift into a syncopated, quasi-rock-steady beat, which unexpectedly finds itself backing a languid repeating piano melody. The effect is to create a moment of meditation before changing again to a sort of chorus full of jazzy arpeggios that bring to mind Boa. The vocals (married with a distant harmonica?) here are reflective, although the lyrics are difficult to make out. A moment of silence, some minor chords are plucked over, and then the band jumps into a catchy sing-along section that is repeated with intensity, backing vocals, and additional layering of color. This second chorus completes its cycle, stemming naturally into an outro as the individual instruments drop out. These changes occur with such rapidity it is difficult to assimilate all that you have heard upon first listen. Despite their deference to pop sensibility, Pygmy seem to disdain repetition, opting for a piece of music that quickly evolves, even omitting the common technique of repeating the introductory bars as a conclusion.

Pygmy’s music is eclectic, often going many places within a single song. This pastiche of styles, despite its subtlety, is not always seamless. While not quite pretentious, this conglomeration of musical ideas interrupts the chronology of their songs, calling undesirable attention to what they are doing. At their best, these aspects are either flaunted or kept behind the scenes; otherwise the result, while still entertaining, takes on a meandering quality that detracts from the band’ potential impact. Despite these quips, I wish more groups possessed the creativity and/or skill that Pygmy have assembled.