If there is any driving force behind the indie rock movement over the past few years – the whole post-hardcore, post-punk, post-anything movement – it is the refinement of noise and experimentation. For some, this means taking apart conventional rock tropes and reassembling them in new and often bizarre ways; for others, it's about using strange noises and new instruments to create a symphony of noise, often completely breaking from the expectations of an average rock song.
The varied approaches to experimentation and noise in the indie music community are more than just new gimmicks, they are movements away from the established cliches of rock and punk. In dusty basements of suburban homes and on the back alleys off city streets, indie musicians are doing new and exciting things, taking apart old electronics to make eerie sounds and testing the limits of guitar amps and drum sets. As things begin to sound conventional and stale (which is inevitable, just as it was with punk rock), new approaches to music take affect.
Count Denton, Texas band Pyramids as one more group of musicians who are willing to test the extremes of noise and experimentation. Pyramids have set out to create walls of cacophony with brief glimpses of melody and grace on their self-titled debut, and the combination creates an unnerving yet original post-rock collection of songs that put to rest any notions of indie rock becoming pretentious or bland.
Pyramids starts out with "Sleds," a swirling intro with distorted guitars turned to full volume and filtered through layers of reverb. It conjures up the introduction of U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" while borrowing heavily from drone metal acts like Sunn O))). Overall, "Sleds" typifies the difficult-to-name sound of Pyramids that is angelic and brash all at once, a duplicity that's fitting for a band of this caliber.
"Sleds" transitions into "Igloo," and from there, Pyramids start to deconstruct any semblance of sound and put it back together in a unique and highly disfigured way. With all the atmosphere of electronic noise coupled with pounding drums and hellish screams, "Igloo" is difficult to get through, but there's still something in the background that resembles a song. "The Echo Of Something," which suggests the song hidden behind noise structure, continues this theme, transitioning into the metal mayhem of "End Resolve."
But that's really just the beginning, and by the time you get to the halfway point of this album, Pyramids has lured you in with its horror and intrigue. "This House is Like Any Other World" and "Ghost" rely heavily on double bass drumming and the swirling eddies of reverb, but don't move the listener beyond much more than noise. The vocals are barely there, yet they suggest folksy ballads if you listen (very) closely. Other songs, like "Hillary," are so clouded by noise it's difficult to make any sense of it at all, but then again, "Hillary" might hold some type of obscure political message since the album was released in the midst of a messy – and often confusing – Democratic Presidential primary.
Still, there are some moments of sanity on this album, like "Monks," which seems fitting for a horror movie soundtrack more than a full-blown hallucinatory trip, even if it's full of haunting noise. Although the album builds up into something epic on "Sleds," it ends with the grinding noise of "1, 2, 3," a song that, if you make it that far, will have you seeing new colors.
Although Pyramids may not make much sense at first listen, it certainly fits into the changing fields of experimentation seen in the indie community today. Pyramids aren't afraid to try new things and expand perceptions of what sound can do, and their self-titled debut certainly suggests they plan on doing this for a while now.
The mp3 version of the album, available on Amazon, also has a bonus disc that includes several re-mixes by fellow artists and friends, giving the Pyramids sound even more depth. The band's label, Hydra Head, also offers a free streaming audio version of the album on their Web site.