Pyramid-The First American
Joey Stephens (vocals, guitar)
Ben Best (vocals, guitar),
Ben Kennedy (violin, cello)
Kris Baucom (keys, sax),
Brent Bagwell (horns),
Tyler Baum (bass, slide guitar),
Chris Walldorf (drums)
Ryan Blaine (accordion, trombone)
Pyramid will be playing at Smith’s Ole Bar in Atlanta on 8/17 and at the Visulite Theater in Charlotte on 8/25
Pyramid is one of those bands that defies description to some degree. While there are certainly elements of Radiohead and indie rock, even alt country, the cellist and horn section set this band immediately apart. I would not compare them to other bands with similar instrumentation – say the cocaine hyperness of Poloyphonic Spree. In fact, I can’t think of a band more opposite.
Pyramid has managed some national success, landing songs on soundtracks for Sony Pictures Undertow and All the Real Girls. But up until now we have only had a taste of what this band is capable of. Finally, after years of promises, we get their first long form effort, The First American.
From the very first notes of the opening track it is obvious that Pyramid is not a childish band. This is music that would fit well at art galleries or as a backdrop to serious conversations in dark bars, were the subject matter maybe isn’t appropriate for the easily offended.
For all the perfection and skill that goes into the harmonics, Joey’s vocals and occasionally harsh lyrics offer a strong counterpoint to what is otherwise beautifully organic music. Pyramid often employs slow compositions that bring the listener to the edge of despair, such as The Streets Were Raining, “I know you saw it first/you knew what was coming/I couldn’t stop us/for hours and hours I sat and waited for you to answer.” And as often as not, just when the listener can no longer take the strain of too much bitter emotion, the horns and cello pile on.
Not all the tracks on this record are slow, The Appalachian is a great up tempo track that keeps the middle of the disc from droning. Something I would have liked to have seen more often on this record, The Engineer finally takes some of the controls off and just lets the band jam. Too many of the songs on The First American run away from their potential in Pyramid’s fear of turning into an artsy jam band.
While the record technically goes on for a couple of more tracks, Waiting for Buffalo is the last song that holds my attention. It starts off as a slow, some what pondering track that builds into one of the most cathartic releases on the entire disc, with the horns and guitars and everyone playing as Joey yells over it all, “flush in the face when you run and you run/one heavy machine kicking dust when it comes/ where do you go if you get too close.”
This record does suffer a bit from not having an obvious radio single or even a genre to be promoted into. Even so, The First American is energetic and original. It’s an incredible effort for an indie band recording out of their own studio, especially for a band as complicated as this one has to be to coordinate.
Having so many musicians might be a curse at times, making it difficult to cut instruments from a song that just doesn’t require it. But don’t let that stop you from giving this unique album a listen. I really hope somebody is smart enough to sign this band before the growing pains of playing adult music in an adolescent world kills them.
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