Release Date: Jul 5, 2011
Record label: Acephale
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi
Along with contemporaries like Texas-born Jana Hunter's band Lower Dens, Black Angels and a handful of other Austin-based psyche purveyors, Pure X have tapped into something possibly unique to their environment in their particular brand of intricate and guitar-heavy epics. At moments, echoes of previous generations of Austin's acid-washed history come through, be it the slowed-to-a-crawl pop plaintiveness of 90's slowcore act Bedhead or the guitar tone explorations of luminaries like Cold Sun. Heavy on atmosphere and hooks alike, Pleasure comes one bounding step closer in the eternal quest to marry refined song craft and ungovernable noise.
After a few scattered 7"s, Pure Ecstasy decided to up and change their name to Pure X for their debut full-length. But Pure X are hardly suffering from a personality crisis-- a San Francisco cover band already had the former handle copyrighted, so the abbreviation occurred out of necessity. For those of us who heard something special in loose, wandering tracks like 2009 B-side "You're in It Now" or "Voices" a year later, nearly everything on Pleasure will feel like a welcome distillation of the elements that made those songs sound promising.
There’s a reason that a synonym for slowcore (Codeine, Low, Red House Painters, et al.) was sadcore. It tended to be bummer music: the music often simulating the anamorphosis of time under a spell of depression, desolation, or general melancholy, accentuating the way that time seemed to drag, the melted and coalesced disjunctive quality of hours, days, years lived under a spell of mis-feeling. Austin, TX’s Pure X (nee Pure Ecstasy) are sadcore for the chillwavers, all fuzzed out and hazily smooth, decidedly lo-fi where the “lo” could be short for both “lowercase” and “lonely”.
The three young Texans of Pure X (shortened from Pure Ecstasy) have spent a lot of time wishing it were still the early 1990s. Their debut album drips with a hazy nostalgia for the days when fringes drooped over eyes, which were in turn cast down to the floor. Pleasure drifts in and out of focus – some of the 10 tracks aren't even complete songs, just a hook that fades in and fades out again, having stumbled along pleasantly for a couple of minutes, with Nate Grace's guitar cutting through the amniotic fug.
Scaling back their original name – Pure Ecstasy – to the less specific Pure X made sense for this Texas trio. There is a minimalism at work in their music and approach – a purity of execution to their simple, bulbous rhythms and a direct honesty to their record-this-shit-live-while-it’s-hot approach. The “Ecstasy” from their name lives on in the title of their debut full-length, Pleasure, and more importantly in the unbridled sensuality of guitarist Nate Grace’s playing.
Listening to Pleasure, Austin trio Pure X’s debut album, is like entering a reverb-heavy dream world where you are eternally teetering on the edge of hazy consciousness. Pure X creates an ominous, hypnotizing world of sound, recorded live on this album with no overdubs. The sparingly used vocals act as another instrument with which band members Nate Grace, Jesse Jenkins and Austin Youngblood play, and a guitar line or a drumbeat is often the only discernible sound against a fog-filled backdrop.
Pure X operates with the consistency of a warped cassette, bruised and woozy. Having shed the more unbecoming moniker of Pure Ecstasy, over the course of a few singles and the EP You're in It Now, the local trio – Nate Grace, Jesse Jenkins, and Austin Youngblood – put Texas psych under a heat lamp, melting it down to reverb and melody. The band's debut full-length, Pleasure, continues in this template, though its unresolved, washed-out nostalgia falls closer to the neo-gaze of Kranky Records than Trance Syndicate's slowcore.