words by Eliza Coolidge
Pink and brown was never a color combination I enjoyed. Brown always futilely attempted to neutralize or “man up” the girlish vanity of pink, while pink was contemptuous and nagging at the moroseness of Brown. Luckily, this color-war analogy doesn’t apply to the Brooklyn-based trio PinkBrown. Each member of the group, Xander Naylor on guitar, Max Jaffe on drums, and Johan Andersson on saxophones, symbiotically contributes their own compositions and voice blending, giving the group a sound that is intricate yet unassailably united.
The three song EP, released in February, opens with "Octagon”, a barbed stuttering of distorted neuroses. The distortion is a bit unnerving, but it's a hell of a way to grab the listeners’ doubts and throw them to the ground. The guitar and tenor become quiet, letting the drummer establish a groove. Long horizons of feedback and extended technique wash overhead while the drums pocket their groove, cementing the heady psychedelic effusions. The trio sounds big, yet at other moments anemically stark. I’m assuming this is a crime of recording, though a relative misdemeanor. I've had the privilege to hear PinkBrown live several times and have never found their sound to be flat. Nevertheless, the sax and guitar hasten to a King Crimson approved hook, giving the drums permission to rage with bionic precision. The arrangement has a great arc with an energetic ending, playing with the listener and challenging her with swift meter and dynamic changes. After this dynamic thrust, they effortlessly slither into a soft drift of reversed feedback and airy susurrations. In the last two minutes of this eleven-minute piece the sound begins to meander, unnecessarily revisiting the same sections and textures heard before.
"According To Taste" bustles with alluring tiny movements and gestures, like the inside workings of a strikingly demented clock. It's a clock that perhaps opens to other portals of time and dimension, being run by tiny little people. Their heads are down. They're working communally towards some obscure occult goal, possibly in monastic robes. With a perfect combination of stridence and staccato, they pass the foreground amongst themselves, shifting in 1 to 2 note figures. What results is a complex fabric of polyrhythmic melody. The agitations settle into a desolate melancholy – sparse, mournful and daring. This is not music for musicians who are afraid of sound or (considering the EP cover is a serious glance and nod towards Guston) painters who are afraid of paint for that matter. Surreal infrastructures and small societies churn listlessly amongst themselves. They return to the beginning themes but with greater aggression and impatience. Suddenly, there is the strange feeling of exiting a dream. A pugnacious two-second line swiftly brings us back to reality like a hostile vestige.
"Undisemboweled", aside from probably being the greatest track name, is also their catchiest tune. Here we hear more of PinkBrown's progressive rock influence, the marriage of grunge and glory. Unfortunately, after the first minute they soon flip off into another feedback-smeared section much like the first track. The sound becomes too familiar, especially since there are only three tracks on the album. It works because the improvisations are cohesive and the written material is solid, both blending well together. Still, it lacks originality.
Though brief, the content here is indisputably forward-looking. It provokes the usually immovable monoliths of improvisation and scripted rock, forcing them to work side by side. The EP is available for download online at www.pinkbrown.bandcamp.com. They will also soon be on a tour, playing clubs and DIY spaces from Brooklyn to Minneapolis. Check out there website www.pinkbrownmusic.com for further details on tour dates.
As it turns out, PinkBrown is my new favorite color.