Pinkish Black are from Fort Worth, Texas. Their debut, self-titled LP on Handmade Birds is a crushingly heavy offering of alternately gothic sludge and ethereal psychedelia. The band are presented as a deathrock band, and I suppose a case could be made for that; influences like the Birthday Party are touted, and there is some resemblance to the newer Oakland deathrock band Alaric here. However, this is definitely not music I would compare to Specimen or Alien Sex Fiend. Instead, there is much of the Swans‘ bleak nihilism here — a relentlessly gloom-heavy, epic manifesto of dread that recalls Killing Joke‘s doomier moments, or even early Godflesh. It is from that more crushing black abyss that the music seems to arise.
With song titles like “Tastes Like Blood,” “Everything Went Dark,” and “Tell Her I’m Dead,” the tone is decidedly dark from the outset. The bottom end of the sound is mercilessly heavy and expansive, perhaps owing to member John Teague’s history in Denton powerhouse Yeti. (Daron Beck of Pointy Shoe Factory is also in the band.) And yet the production has ensured that all the instruments are clearly heard and widely-spaced apart. In other words, the production is rich and full-bodied, unlike how crust or grind bands tend to be produced. The vocals on the opening are distant and echoey, vaguely resembling Gregorian chanting. The effect could be described with the phrase “doom psychedelia,” perhaps. Or gothic stoner sludge, maybe? But let’s forget about these types of labels for a second.
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Track 4, “Fall Down,” is my personal fave, recalling as it does at turns early Swans material, the aforementioned Birthday Party, and even the sort of dark, slogging music of bands like Amebix or Morne (not in the vocal department, but in the overall tones and atmosphere). This is, however, much better produced than most things in the crust genre. (And again, this is NOT a crust LP.) The vocals are somewhere in the ballpark of Michael Gira and Nick Cave on “Fall Down,” alternating between disaffected growls and a more dramatic bellowing, tucked elusively behind shifting grey veils of mist (or so is the aural effect). Lest I be misunderstood, the songs manage to be more dynamic than one-dimensional dark, guitar-driven, doomer sludgefests; when you least expect it, Pinkish Black’s songs take a strange and welcome turn towards the ethereal, elevating the songs to new heights. Remember The Cranes song “Starblood”? There’s some of that in here, too. In fact, that is Pinkish Black’s standout quality — their ability to delve into the most dismal, sonorous depths of the sonic spectrum and then wrench you back up with a lilting turn of atmosphere or well-placed synthesizer and piano moment (as in “Tastes Like Blood”) that makes one feel as if they have been suddenly lifted into the aether.
All in all, the music is certainly creepy and dark. Not creepy in a cartoony bats-and-graveyards way, but creepy in a very spectral and truly mournful, almost existential, way. The atmosphere is thick and almost oppressively black. In other words, I like it a lot. I will probably be listening to the LP over and over again in the next few weeks. The entire LP has a ponderous and meditative feel. If you like Cop or Filth-era Swans, or Justin Broadrick’s band Fall of Because (proto-Godflesh), this is highly recommended.