Release Date: May 19, 2017
Record label: Harvest Records
It's been a few years now since Pumarosa made their presence known with their seven minute epic "Priestess". From the rumbling, eerie drone of a beginning, introducing us to Isabel Munez-Newsome's incredible vocals, to the cacophonous ending, all saxophones and shredding guitars, it was a track to be in awe of. It became clear that Pumarosa were a band that had a list of influences as long as their collective arm and yet sounded absolutely their own.
Let's get to the meat of this up front—Pumarosa's The Witch is a stunning record, its mastery belied by its debut status. That a new band could craft a unified work so unorthodox and innovative is itself striking; that the individual songs are so damn good makes the accomplishment even more laudable. A mythic quality pervades the ten tracks. Several of the songs are quite lengthy, but, with a few exceptions, they manage to avoid feeling interminable thanks to an undercurrent of energy.
There are some artists that unleash an unmistakable sound, the moment you whack them on the stereo. It’s a feat that can sometimes take years to hone, but in Pumarosa’s case, they had their signature nailed by the time their second single ‘Cecile’ (which is oddly absent from this record, given the concentration of previous singles elsewhere) landed. The band themselves dub the whole thing "industrial spiritual,’ and that’s not far off the mark to be honest; ‘The Witch’ marries punchy, stainless steel chorus-spiders with a delicate web of skittering, electronic texture.
Pumarosa have a flair for the dramatic. While gothic, 4AD artists from the '80s may be the most obvious touchstones, Pumarosa imbue this icy style with a lot of modern electronic flourishes (and, on Priestess, even a little brass). They paint intense, vivid soundscapes, tapping into visceral feelings of alienation, but still manage to breathe a certain warmth into a genre that is famed for its cold aloofness.
L ondon five-piece Pumarosa don't sound like much else that's around, sporting a flamboyant tendency to space-rocking, electronically garnished epics. They build with skill, too, on the grungey Honey and the rolling Lions' Den, the slow-burning title track and the pulsing, hedonistic, brass-flourished Priestess, which recalls Foals at their most fluid and funky. Slighter songs such as the Britpoppy My Gruesome Loving Friend or the trip-hoppy Barefoot aren't as arresting, and the new-agey lyrics coupled with Isabel Munoz-Newsome's impassioned, highly mannered vocals can grate.