Maserati - Pyramid of the Sun
Record Label: Temporary Residence Limited
Release Date: November 9, 2010
Silence is so accurate - Mark Rothko
The city knows silence, not of silence. Plucks it from unmemory as an overheard presence, a vacated membrane, something called for, called with, unconsciously, inscrutably spat upon itself and its blinking, blackening inhabitants.
And how this—the invisible dispersal of vibration, echo, and friction—occludes, nay prevents, self-perception; the inevitable result onslaught and influence of overwhelming synæsthesia. No, no, there is no indelible demarcation; our cursed fumbling as the lines, gradations, and variegations seethe and believe and conceive—do not entirely recede. Our loanword the city's jettison. And yet our naïve assumption of the highway-godhead's empirical permeability…Could, once all arrival synergy reaches critical mass, we not be swung, not have swum, down this conurbation's esophagus and return out the poisoned ear of time?
TELL ME. Would you not have the urban beast’s skin varicose? veins poem-platelet’d? your modest guide (read: reviewer) sincerely self-aware as the city is not?
So. You don’t drive in the city; you drive to the city. Led by desire for self-erasure; given over to some nebulous yet surging kineticism; suffused by the cool breeze of amor fati. Of pursuit—distance—hallucinogenic gasoline transfusion. Your knowing and questioning suspended, stowed, glovebox’d, as the interstate and its deafening, oceanic gulp reaches you in. Only alive to/for light(s), rays that flutter-filter through the window and glaze your agog skin to parquet, leaving a dust on the floor between seat and door like so much ash. With the drive blurred so as to be blurless, hummed in timeless time passage—fleeting, fleeing, colorless, odorless, feelingless—“these decibels / Are a kind of flagellation” (Ashbery, The Skaters). If you brought someone on the ride, s/he’s been sucked out of the moonroof in haloed concert—riding the wreathed madness toward once-hugged starnoise.
To understand a significant reason/locus for/of Athens, GA quartet Maserati's latest release, Pyramid of the Sun, we must flux-capacitor to Berlin, 1981. As legend goes, Ash Ra Tempel guitarist Manuel Göttsching wandered into a studio, toting his axe, with the modest aim to concoct a soundtrack for an upcoming airplane ride. He plugged into a sequencer, fooled around, and left, sometime later, having invented, and, thus presaged, minimal, repetition-based electronic music (whether experimental or dance floor-ready), comprising everything from trance to house to techno to the space/cosmic disco strain propagated by contemporary artists such as Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas, and diskJokke. Göttsching would unsheathe it to the unsuspecting public as 1984's E2-E4.
Maserati...well, my legend goes that the band, clairvoyant, bivouacked inside Göttsching's awaiting amp, and proceeded to bicker about whether or not it made sense to hotbox within such a confined electric environment. Boredom won out and the party began, but upon entering the studio, Göttsching was so possessed as to be oblivious to the band's giggles, coughs, and headbanging (literally, on the amp's inner walls), as Göttsching's ascending guitar lexicon birthed its own lush galaxy, across, along the ceiling, and trickled out the same open window through which Maserati scampered, once the private concert subsided, leaving Göttsching to close the studio door, whistling, pleased with his extemporaneous, electronic magnum opus.
Oh yes, Maserati were there. Except that it would take them years, albums, lineup and record label changes, to recall and lasso forth that sonorous assemblage of notes. It was a dream that, instead of evanescing with consciousness, grew clearer with the passage of time. They never needed any of it, as they proved with each invigorating album. They began, on the 2001's unfortunately now-disowned 37:29:24, with youthful angst and abandon—as one often does—an anxious need to display technical dexterity. They found respite in the lulls and swells and dangled, dappled cocoons of melody on 2002's The Language of Cities. In fact, that album's "The Language" was thankfully my introduction to the band; it remains my favorite song of theirs largely due to its blithe withholding of catharsis, finally given—like a tumble into some exotic gorge—brilliantly at 6:19.
But, after a bit of a group disappearance and the addition of drummer extraordinaire Jerry Fuchs, two new tracks surfaced on their MySpace profile, imbued with something from the past—their imagined past; the collective unconscious of futuristic, Blade Runner'd city swells and distant yet omnipresent breathings. Songs spackled, strewn, and structured with groove—with vim and verve—verbed with fluorescent caprice. They found an ideal home on Temporary Residence Limited, even heralding future label releases concerned with the sort of electronic-based aesthetic of artists like Zombi and side-project Majeure.
Indeed, with 2008's Inventions for the New Season, an unforeseen urban lattice unfurled over the course of eight tracks. An unassuming quartet motorik'd out a just-enough-awake vibration, gradually growing, ripening, rippling forth its intoxicated heartbeat into blood-stitched ice sheets, like melted, metropolis-fed-and-ravished water. Inventions offered a diverse topography, capturing the ineluctable engulfment by a city's pulse in entire. But it wasn't a perfect album; it occasionally felt labored-over and anticlimactic when its ostensible intent had instead been restraint. So with night-drive post-rock heads rapt, Maserati needed not only to equal their prior city-conjuring but to assuredly pull back the metropolis' mottled thunder-skin to reveal a new exhilarant schematic, guiding adventurous parties to environs redolent of Stallone's Daylight. Fuchs' tragic 2009 death, however, halted progress on new material, and caused question that a new record would even be released.
But thankfully here we embark on our, the album's, the band's latest voyage—this new hope towards night-supped light. A track-by-track synopsis of Pyramid of the Sun is by nature reductive, by dint destructive, as it dissects such an accomplished album's consciousness, causing it to unravel and lose the luster of mystery. Instead, we concede that it's the Pyramid of a crying, horizon-led Sun Maserati addresses and summons in reverent, machining God-tones on their fourth full-length. Outfitted in tasteful yet flamboyant garb, this Pyramid exhales and cleanses itself of any past band reticence; it converts the potential of crescendo-eager pockets convincingly into something kinetic and protean. It doesn't so much go for the throat as re-purpose the throat into a borough-bound tunnel, with phlegm as tire scraps, animal remains, and sundry interstate detritus; saliva as the charging watersource on which the blessed highway slakes its thirst—the event when road finds succor in echo and coruscation.
Just as one doesn't really need a soundtrack to a certain city on a particular night—the drive is the soundtrack to and of itself when the system, both that of body and car, appropriately narcotic'd, blooms through the speakers with residual jouissance from when the pavement hummed alone—Pyramid of the Sun doesn't offer an accompaniment to your drive but embarks on it for you, and, via analepsis, syringes passage back, afoam, its theory galvanized by the very eager blood running from cement to car to your fluttering eyes. Pyramid corrects the sometimes awkward sequencing of Inventions, revealing an even more determined conveyance, fiendishly homing for the street(s), the alive, the neon thunder-gatherer and her lazy-eyed fishnet promise-purpose. The album, by nature cyclical, repeats its revolutions as the wheels and horsepower it relentlessly in-/evokes—draws breath from. It predicts and inspires an expectant voyage to a nameless, originless, sphinxlike city—one of eternal trajectory and illusory content. It employs repetition consciously to mirror the unconscious reiteration of machine—mimesis of automatic cell production. It bequeaths synth ladelings to evoke ubiquitous seizures of liquid technology.
Still, it’s worth noting that closer "Bye M'Friend, Goodbye" offers not only the perfect conclusion to the record's nocturnal city voyage, but a heartwarming send-/sound-off to one of the indie scene's most beloved drummers, Jerry Fuchs. I'm unclear about how much Fuchs contributed to Pyramid, but nevertheless his ebullient spirit and percussive acumen permeates—it offers encouragement and whispers godspeed to the band.
For an album so concerned with, so possessed by, the night, one wonders why the band chose Pyramid of the Sun for a title. Perhaps it's a mischievous promise of an album so alive it could repair and concatenate the requisite gears, wires, and apparatus-tendons to resuscitate a moaning sunset; or an implication of something so very night that it readily invokes the opposite. Regardless, Pyramid of the Sun not only remedies the sporadic deficiencies of Inventions for the New Season, it does proud the legacies of Jerry Fuchs and Manuel Göttsching; it also serves as both a challenge and heuristic experience for the alarmingly proliferating post-rock contingent. And copping it may just make you drive off a bridge.