Brian Pyle takes a dangerous turn with his solo Ensemble Economique project — ironic moniker? check — shifting away from the sample-psych experimentalism of Starving Weirdos and opting for a template that wouldn’t be out of place on a witch house-friendly LP if you added some slightly pitch-bereft female vocals to the mix. Slow, gyrating, surging digi-beats; layers of click track; loops/synth; a forward-thinking, space-age feel: Yep, the player is the same, but the game done changed, and while I admire Pyle’s work in the Weirdos (not to mention RV Painting), Crossing the Path, By Torchlight might be even better, sort of a soft, comfy middle point between the abstract collage-fuckery of Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting, the bass-boosted lurch of White Ring, the fluorescent-pink ass-waxing of Black Moth Super Rainbow/Tobacco, bits and pieces of the FlyLo generation, and the more old-school tendencies of classic instrumental hip-hop artists like Deceptikon.
Not sure if it was a conscious choice to render his solo guise nearly uninhabitable for more than one person, but Crossing the Path is lonely, isolated; its every permutation seems to cry out for other humans to share its art with, and yet no one appears and our hero is forced to trudge through miles of piled-high white stuff to get where he thinks he’s going, and song titles like “Somewhere, Anywhere” ring like cries for a companion. (Some of Pyle’s posts on the EE Tumblr site back up this assertion, as well; talks of long walks alone on Christmas morning, that kind of thing.) Where he ends up is the listener’s skull; even if Ensemble Economique is a solo act in disguise, as long as we’re tuned in, we’re right there with him, feeling the ice-cold in our bones and wishing upon the brightest indie star.
As Side A, unfolds the beats take an encouraging turn, maintaining the softness but supplanting the bounciness for more complicated, yet still flow-friendly, stretch of percussion that hints at jazz-den beat-making and carries the compositions along with even more flavor. Even when the beats aren’t top-notch, Crossing the Path is never reduced to a Kid With His MiniKorg aesthetic; Pyle piles the intrigue high and even adds a few humming vocal snippets to the apparatus, spinning Side B forward into the future, not to mention the out-and-out voice samples you’d expect to hear on a Starving Weirdos LP.
As much as it must pain the dancehall folk to hear material like this dominating certain pockets of indie culture — after all, you can’t-can’t-CAN’T dance to this shit unless you put the world in slow motion — I’ve found myself fascinated by the possibilities of audio that doesn’t ebb and flow according to the whims of some throbbing cock-ego’d frontman (or frontwoman). This sort of freedom can be deadly, but in the right hands, it will liberate your ears faster than any verse-bridge-chorus (indie-rock’s answer to 12-bar shithouse blues) concoction, regardless of how many or how few will end up hearing it. Think of it as an exclusive club: Power to the peephole!