Pronto, the side project of Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, daringly ventures into the realm of musical experimentation on the new instrumental release, The Cheetah. This sophomore album is a collection of twelve synth infused, digitally crafted songs that create a mellow, atmospheric, and somewhat bizarre soundscape.
While Pronto’s debut release, All Things Golden, was defined by its 1970s pop/rock style, hints of folk, catchy hooks, clever songwriting, and strong vocals, The Cheetah offers none of those things. Although this doesn’t necessarily make it a bad album, it certainly doesn’t make it a great one.
Unfortunately, this is a collection of songs that, at times, borders dangerously close to Muzak land. That being said, amidst the mundane and lullabye-ish moments of this stroll into the land of wordless, electronic pop, there are some cool effects and catchy grooves.
The opening track, “Tectonics”, begins like a hymn and is played on a synthesizer with interesting dissonant harmonies. Sadly, the drums enter after only twenty seconds or so, and the track (filled with rapid fire, staccato synthesizer notes) turns into what seems like background music for an Atari game (but with a real drummer playing along)—not the most impressive album opener.
The first nice moment on the album comes with the third track, “Einladung”, which features smooth guitar work by Chris Girard that is complimented by dancing synth sounds and a drone-like bass line. However, it is the next track, “Catch the Martian”, that finally brings the album to life. Its upbeat, jazzy style is accentuated with sci-fi sound effects and some clever drumming by Greg O’Keefe.
The title track showcases Girard’s guitar work again. It is a gentle, lulling piece that would serve well for mood-setting music or as a backing score for film or television use (Truthfully, it would be perfect for something sappy like a Dawson’s Creek reunion show). While the song is soothing and pretty, the only thing that keeps it from being included on one of the relaxation CD’s sold at the likes of Walmart or Target is the absence of trickling water and distant thunder heard behind the music.
The only true “rocker” on the album is “The Monster”. This is the track that would later evolve into the song “Monster” from Pronto’s previous album. While the drum beat is energetic and the riffs are catchy, it only amounts to being a very early demo of what would later turn into a great fully realized song. This infant-stage recording will likely be of interest to Pronto fans.