Release Date: May 14, 2013
Record label: Acephale
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Noise Pop
Pure XCrawling Up The Stairs[Acéphale; 2013]By Rob Hakimian; June 13, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGPure X shortened their name from Pure Ecstasy shortly before releasing their debut album Pleasure back in 2011, and that’s often what the album felt like; a wholly pleasurable ecstasy trip where all the guitars had soft and warm edges, voices echoed from far away – often unintelligible, but that didn’t matter – reaching a swirling peak at “Easy” where Nate Grace repeatedly sang that he “don’t feel nothin’. ” If that’s the case, then the band’s sophomore release Crawling Up The Stairs is the morning after – the come down. This album is much harsher, more desperate and rawer; here Grace feels everything, and makes sure we know about it.
The title of this record is the perfect metaphor for Austin, TX band Pure X's evolving sound. On their great, though somewhat elusive, debut, Nate Grace's crooning vocals were buried under layers of ambient guitars. Here, they're slowly climbing out of the murk to take centre stage without abandoning the group's penchant for Galaxie 500-esque, floating vibes.
Austin, Texas three-piece Pure X are a band defined by an enveloping intensity. The trio’s debut album, 2011’s Pleasure, was a dense, dark and frequently beautiful album that delved deep into the abyss. The follow-up Crawling Up The Stairs sees them adding the merest touch of light to their dark-hearted laments, providing an almost spiritual redemption, which takes their intense evocations to an even greater height.
Crawling Up the Stairs is an album simultaneously understated in subtlety and haunted in intimate intensity. It’s an album that may make certain listeners uncomfortable; as if, once the inconclusive final track stops at its halt, that for the past 40 minutes they had unwillingly invaded the desperate self-reflections of some universal youth—reflections penitent and joyous, elated and insecure. The record is drowned in, but not defined by, emotion.
From a creative and personal standpoint, reaching a moment where crawling is the only real way you can move forward typically represents a crushingly low period for an artist. So, by Pure X titling their second record Crawling Up The Stairs, you know damn well going in that it’s going to be a dark, heavy listen. Yet, within the raw despair and utter anguish that courses through their stirring new batch of songs, the Austin, Texas trio have also layered a subtle optimism and slight hope.
This time last year was a trying time for Pure X: Nate Grace busted his knee skateboarding but didn't have insurance, multi-instrumentalist Jesse Jenkins was going through a breakup, and drummer Austin Youngblood moved to be with his girlfriend in Los Angeles. While all that was going on, they were also working on Crawling Up the Stairs, the follow-up to their splendidly hazy debut LP, Pleasure. Instead of recording everything live as they did before, Pure X took an arduous year-and-a-half to record C.U.T.S., as they call it, sparing no attention to detail.
A journey t(hr)o(ugh) X marks the spot: X: “He’s the love you could lose”You know the time when your friend has had five too many and is weepily and incoherently rambling about how nobody loves them? And you like and care about your friend a lot and do what you can, but on another level, the whole thing is so cringingly embarrassing it makes you want to crawl into a hole? And then — you know how sometimes you are that friend? What we express in those moments is uniquely-experienced and deeply true, but also utterly clichéd. And what about the concept of a journey? Again, in order to confront suffering, this is an idea that’s as invaluable as it is overutilized; furthermore, we’re always on the cutting edge of time, always reading narratives back into history — like angels — creating stories that can only culminate in the present moment. An auto-telos that undoes itself, the modern myth of self-unfurling — “I’m going to try to move into a new zone.
Crawling Up The Stairs is an album born out of pain. Lead singer and guitarist Nate Grace was injured in a skateboarding injury in 2012 and faced a very troublesome period where it was uncertain if he’d ever walk again, with the rest of the band stuck in artistic limbo by the situation. Thankfully he recovered, and now here we have the Austin Texas trio’s second studio album, but one noticeably different from 2011’s Pleasure.
It’s rare to hear a songwriter as open as Nate Grace is on ‘Crawling Up The Stairs’. Texan trio Pure X’s second album doesn’t so much invite you in for a chat as sit you down and stare you in the eye until things get uncomfortable. ‘Written In The Slime’ and ‘Shadows And Lies’ sound laced with his DNA, while ‘Things In My Head’ could rival Grizzly Bear in the polite heartbreak stakes.
Pure X's 2011 debut, Pleasure, was a slow, grainy trip of humid guitars and foggy atmospheric pop. Some of that excellent album's unique feel was attributable to the recording process -- a tight band with strong communication recorded live to tape with minimal overdubs, opting instead for choreographed movements in their murky ambient-leaning pop. Somewhere between that bright debut and 2013's Crawling Up the Stairs, things got a little darker for the members of Pure X.
If you’re a young musician or band that is just starting your career, there is no greater gift—or curse—than having your very first effort get bestowed with the following words: “it’s a promising debut.” Promising because you might be good but you’re not there yet. You need to figure some things out first, cut back on your precious darlings and get to the core of what makes you interesting in the first place. Of course, while this phrase may appear to be somewhat backhanded on the onset, “a promising debut” is better than getting no notice whatsoever.
If ‘Pleasure’ was Pure X’s storm, follow up ‘Crawling Up The Stairs’ is the cutting aftermath. Sound-wise, anyway. While their debut saw vocals swept up in a gust of guitar-drenched haze, barely audible for the most part, ‘Crawling’ sees Nate Grace’s cries emerge through a calmer sonic backdrop. But these are more tortured cries of exhaustion than of relief.
Purity is an easy pose to strike but a hard look to maintain. On its first album, 2011’s Pleasure, Texas slow-crawl psych group Pure X showed a total command of a very specific mood: dusky, sexy desert rock cool. The guitars were molten, the vocals were equal parts Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500 and Yo La Tengo, and the song titles were really, really short—two words at most.