Rising from the ashes of New York City underground punk collection Pill, three of its members, Veronica Torres, Jonathan Campolo, and Benjamin Jaffe, join forces with Eaters’ Jonathan Schenke and Bob Jones to bring us P.E.
The five piece’s debut album, Person, is perhaps the slow-burner of 2020.
Released just before the Covid-19 lockdown period, Person is one of those albums that takes months to sink your fangs into. One of those albums that sits in the back of your mind nagging you to just stick with it.
P.E.‘s music draws you in. Like trying to find that elusive piece of the puzzle. Once found, you realise you’re engaging with something fresh and vital. Unlike these words, given the time that has elapsed, but as they say, dear rogues – better late than never…
On Person, Veronica Torres‘ abstract spoken-word sloganeering doesn’t come off as cheap at all. Neither does P.E.‘s fusion of wiry post-punk and electronic surges.
When rock and electronica merge it’s generally a disaster in waiting but P.E. find the right spaces and strike the right chords, thus making sure that such failures are averted. They don’t rush the listener and instead send them into a hypnotic drug-induced fever dream.
“Pain is love is closeness,” Torres announces on the dark twisted opener that is Mandarin. The scrap paper poeticism follows, as Torres goes on to confirm that she is “the golden girl through force and gentle touch”.
In contrast, Machine Machine follows and you’d not be completely mad to mistake P.E. for a totally different band. Dead-eyed electronica and trash-can saxophone are embers that burn below Torres‘ spoken-word tales that feel more like an acid-trip than a call-to-arms.
Top Ticket follows – a rebellious track that faintly scrapes against tin, designed to clear a dance-floor filled with well-oiled hipsters on a Saturday night.
The jagged bass lines on Lovers’ Lane give the track a post-punk framework with minimalist saxophone and Torres‘ storytelling turning the song into an abstract brand of poetry.
Album highlight, Dirty Plumage, is fierce explosion of wild skronk and the burning of masculinity. “Buy my book/ I’ll sell you our history” spits Torres. It’s brash, but like all good punches, they hit you where it hurts. It’s essentially Person boxed up in three-and-a-half minutes.
Songs like Soft Dance and Pink Shiver could well be pop numbers had they not been taken to with incongruous electro beats and psychotic sax. Make no mistake, though, self-sabotage this is not.
P.E. describe their creation as “human music for the 21st century”. On the surface, it may seem slightly pretentious but when you spend the required time with Person it’s not so far off the mark. The interludes throughout (see Shimmy and the title track) give weight to this notion.
What P.E. accomplishes with Person is deconstructing conventional methods of rock music to form their own brand of electro-punk. But not as we know it. They pay a certain homage to minimalism but add to this in their own subversive ways. Ultimately, it’s punk in every sense.
If anything, Person should act as a fresh reference point for a new generation of artists aiming to be edgy and failing miserably at it.
Person is out now via Wharf Cat Records.