Here's what we said about it:
For the last 14 years, New Zealander Stefan Neville has been issuing a steady stream of cassettes, lathe-cuts, cd-rs, 7"s and other assorted slabs of mysterious small-run skronk under the Pumice moniker. Somehow through it all Neville has managed to find a comfortable spot nestled in between two very distinct strains of NZ music-making. At their heart, the songs he writes are pop songs obviously indebted to the legacy of Flying Nun, The Tall Dwarves and The Clean; that said, his willful disregard for fidelity, his love of tape hiss, wow and flutter, garbled vocals and blasts of harsh drone are a tip o' the hat to kiwi noiseniks like Birchville Cat Motel, Dead C, and Antony Milton. It's a compelling combination, as it allows his records to be both densely textural and supremely melodic - for every piece of blown out headphone candy, there's a memorable vocal or frighteningly catchy guitar riff. It's this incredible tug-of-war between (as we put it in our review) "doleful drone" and "sheer pop umph" that made us flip out over the last Pumice full-length, Pebbles, and we're happy to report that Neville's latest, Quo, finds him refining the Pumice formula in all the best possible ways to create a record full of impish charms, slack anthems, rambling bedrooms hiss, and speaker fried drone assaults!The instore is this Tuesday, September 8th, at 6pm. Be there!!
Quo opens with "Pumice Quo," a song that hints at what is to come on the rest of the album: fuzzed-out, atonal guitars klang and skree like some sort of netherworldly faux-sitar over a ragged, swinging stomp that effortlessly mutates back and forth with a breezy, expansive, half-time swagger. Rhythmically and structurally it's all angular and math-y but it never sounds cold or analytical - it's like some incredible mix of Doc At The Radar Station and Celebrate The New Dark Age where you can't tell if it's Beefheart covering Polvo or vice versa, but everything sounds perfectly fucked up and damaged but so inexplicably catchy at the same time. Likewise, "World with Worms," a creeping, rumbling, blown-out, billowing sea shanty that mixes Neville's signature, mannered (almost goth, really) vocals with a teetering melody pounded out on some sort of half-broken chord organ or accordion.
The first half of the record continues to cast a few different lines - "Fort" sounds like some sort of classic mid-'90s B-side pop anthem you'd expect from GBV or Boyracer buried under 10 feet of shrieking keyboard noise; "Thermos in the Studio" is a winsome bedroom pop instrumental that would sound right at home buried amongst the ruins of Pavement's Westing (By Musket and Sextant) with lyrical slide guitar melodies that are simple, gorgeous and over in an instant; "Pebbles" is 2 minutes of rambling, shuffling, ramshackle pop. However, everything starts to come together with the second half of the record, as "Whole Hoof" looks back to the Polvo/Beefheart battle royale of the album opener but this time ads layers of distorted howling vocals. It starts out like Simply Saucer plowing through some freaked out rockabilly jam but mutates into something completely creepy and sinister at the end.
The album's second half is incredibly strong and manages to focus the scattershot elements of the first half without sacrificing any of those songs' chimpy playfulness. There's a darker element that emerges, but it never overwhelms the whole proceedings. "Sick Bay Duvet" starts out like a lost Fahey side being played back on a broken down gramophone, all rumbling, twanging, echoing, and slightly out of tune. When drums, melodica and a low, throbbing drone finally kick in at the end, it changes into something completely different - a kind of dour, anti-anthem that leads perfectly next track, "Dogwater," whose warbling, garbled take on Blackheart Procession's western goth vibe manages to come as both tongue-in-cheek and gracefully mannered. Things get stronger still with the last three songs: "Heavy Punter" is a solemn funeral shuffle built around a fractured Beefheart/Polvo riff filled out by ghostly keyboards that woosh and drone in and out of the background and fantastic, layered, pseudo-goth vocal stylings; "Battersby" is almost like Pumice's stab at punk rock with Casio tweeters battling against four on the floor drums and stumbling, disaffected vocals that wouldn't sound out of place on a Fall record (the whole thing comes across like some weird mashup of a NZ cd-r salvo and something off of a Messthetics comp - bizarrely catchy and certainly one of our favorites!); and album ender "Beak Remedy" is 7 minutes of blissed out, see-saw chord organ drone, ghostly tape loops, fluttering, stuttering ambient flickers of feedback, hum and hiss with percussive clomps that sneak in toward the end until the whole thing trickles out with choppy puffs of feedback and static.
All this adds up to a brilliant mix of pop songwriting and freaked out fuzzmongering that has been perking the ears of both customers and staff since it first arrived. We're confident that Quo is going to show up on many of our year end best-of lists, and we think you'll feel the same way about this blissed-out, smashed to pieces, melodic, thoughtful, mannered, playful and thoroughly recommended record!