Peeesseye Commuting Between the Surface and the Underworld

[Evolving Ear; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: crazed drone
Others: Tetuzi Akiyama, Organum

A great drone captures the listener like a great drug. It can be enthralling or completely disorienting, applying a chloroform rag to the listener’s mind for a brief period of time. When waking from this trance, the listener usually recalls no specifics from the piece, just a groove. He remembers the feelings channeled through his conscious while listening to the piece, but is hard-pressed to recall the peaks and tweaks within its contours. Of course, the listener may not be able to recall the traits of a particular drone because it bored him.

The lengthy tunes on Peeesseye’s Commuting Between the Surface and the Underworld work like some sort of PCP/heroin fusion, wading in a blissful sea with a violent, paranoid undercurrent. The opiate comparison is a two-way street, as some passages turn from blissful to sleep-inducing in mere minutes. The album collects five tunes and a 22-minute bonus track of animal sounds, idle chatter, and other tidbits of found sound. It is alternately engaging and infuriatingly bland. It contains moments of sheer sonic bliss and passages of redundant, run-of-the-mill faux spiritual chants. Above all, it showcases a powerful group of musicians bursting with energy and originality but in need of an editor.

The album’s two long-form jams, “Oo-Ee-Oo” and “Distant Mud,” teeter with brilliant, sometimes psychotic ambient textures and drones, but almost collapse under the weight of their over-ambitious premise. Both tunes utilize creaking metallic instruments and singular guitar lines to guide their journey. “Oo-Ee-Oo” commences its odyssey with jittering accordion and a simple guitar strum, which remain constant through most of the song, while circulating percussion provides an initial rhythmic intensifier. “Distant Mud” evolves from a clanging guitar piece to a repetitive descent down a hellish staircase. The songs end up in a dark netherworld where a strange, throaty growl whispers cryptic messages as the rhythm gets frantic. Both can be trimmed by a few minutes and, ultimately, work better at keeping the listener’s attention.

“Ballad of Fine Decay” succeeds where “Oo-Ee-Oo” and “Distant Mud” falter. Namely, it keeps the listener in a sedated state of rapture throughout its eight-and-a-half minutes. The composition lures the listener with the tranquilizer-tipped dart of harp pickings and sparse, black organ drone, then gives way to an entrancing raga. The jagged guitar line sounds more entrenched in the occult than anything Fahey ever conjured. Boxy hand percussion and jangling bells round out the evil sound, conjuring an image of the band summoning demons. At the peak of its frenzy, a distorted guitar drone joins the creepy finger-picking and the song bursts into a million percussive pieces. Hand drums, bells and whistles are all that remain from the cast spell.

Like any great drug, Commuting Between the Surface and the Underworld has side effects. It is, however, an interesting ride through the dark side of the mind. With a few kinks worked out, I feel that the chemists in Peeesseye will create a repercussion-free narcotic of an album soon.

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