Album Reviews

Pile: All Fiction

On their latest release, the post-hardcore mainstays continue to find new ways .

Those who have seen a Pile show will agree that they are one of the finest exponents in the live arena. Mixing unbridled telepathy, blistering sound and intense atmospheres, the Pile live experience is simply something to behold.

While perhaps considered an outlier amongst their body of work, 2018’s Green and Gray was, for me, Pile’s high water-mark moment. The last three tracks alone, as good as any album finale you’re likely to hear from any generation. For all intents and purposes, this was a post-hardcore band dappling in tender balladry and making it work in enormously original ways.

There is always a lot to demystify with a Pile record, and on the back of last year’s excellent string of shows across the North America and Europe, on All Fiction, Rick Maguire and Co. combine the intricacies of Green and Gray with the abrasive assaults of Dripping (2011).

Forming the bedrock of Pile is Maguire’s storytelling. A master of metaphor and ambiguity, the singer/guitarist is a true one-a-kind, taking all his influences and reverse engineering them into something bold and wild. Songs permeating with tension as beauty and brutality push in opposite directions.

Space and Time: In Conversation with Pile’s Rick Maguire

Maguire has spent the last three decades cutting across spidery riffs and dislocated rhythms in what has been a beautiful tangled mess. Alongside bassist, Alex Molini and drummer, Kriss Kuss, All Fiction continues this journey of obscure post-hardcore puzzles.

Pile records never make sense on the face of it, and All Fiction is no different. Pile have always made their listeners work; that’s why the band maintain such a fervent following. Their fans get it, and do so through undivided attention, extracting their own unique experiences and interpretations purely through song. That’s why Pile have always been so fascinating. Maguire’s songs, always multi-faced, cloaked in mystique.

Between the smattering of strings and hairpin turns, opening song It Comes Closer contains the remnants of Green and Gray. It’s Maguire opening the door and inviting us into this maze filled with trapdoors and tripwire.

Pile - All Fiction

Sonically, Loops feels inspired by the re-workings which featured on Pile’s excellent 2021 release, Songs Known Together, Alone. Conflict is never far away in a Pile song, and here Maguire picks the lock with straight talking (“Tell me are you being honest/ I would never lie to you”).

In many ways Gardening Hours is quintessential Pile. Within the blink of an eye that AM silence is drowned out by a metallic roar. And the dismay continues on Link Arms – an un-tethered number seemingly conceived from a haunted house. It’s moments like these that crystallise Pile as the one-off we know them to be; engineers of multiple meaning and endless possibilities.

Which leads into Blood. All Fiction’s finest moment, with sharp, jagged guitars that ring and pinprick the skin. Here Maguire parts with some of his most jarring passages, (“My greasy hands are trying to hold on / At which can’t be held or measured against anyone else’s”). It’s the kind of poetic snippets that feel aligned to Green and Gray’s My Employer (“I keep spitting into the abyss/And I’m surrounded by all sides”).  

Sea Change: In Conversation with Kal Marks’ Carl Shane

On Poisons, the mental nimbleness continues. “It’s safe to hide now/ With a handful of giants watching you now/ Heaven is a place where nowhere is“, sings Maguire. Sonically, this is the band at their most raw and seamless, transferring their visceral live performance to tape.

With a title evoking surrealistic imagery, Nude With A Suitcase possesses the lyrical vignettes to match (“Just like losing my teeth in a guillotine dream”). Finishing with the splendid hush of Neon Gray (“It’s just mist/But not from this distance”), once again Maguire teases us with clues to unravel his riddles. Like always, his messages never provide a definitive answer, which is exactly where the beauty lies.

Perhaps the most defining moment on All Fiction comes at the end of Blood, where Maguire parts with the Nick Cave/ Warren Ellis-like elegy, “Not even nothing exists”. A band that will forever torment the mind in weird and wonderful ways, this moment encapsulates the hazy, cagey and enigmatic world of Pile.

There is abstract and there is Pile. And with All Fiction that doesn’t change.

All Fiction is out via Exploding In Sound. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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