❉ A layered album of genuine complexity from the Italian art rock/trip-hop duo.
Since their launch onto the music scene in 2019 with their self-titled debut, Italian art rock/trip-hop duo PINHDAR have further refined their brand of psychedelic dark pop on their latest album, Parallel.
Having made a made a name for themselves on both sides of the Atlantic in the band Nomoredolls, playing New York venues like CBGB’s and the Knitting, Cecilia Miradoli and Max Tarenzi formed PINHDAR, winning the ears of British critic and rock music biographer Kris Needs, who invited them to play at the launch of his new book in London, and legendary Scottish producer and musician Howie B (Massive Attack, Goldie, Bjork, Tricky) came on board as the album’s producer. Indeed, musically you can hear echoes of many of the bands who made up the Bristol Sound, Portishead and Massive Attack in particular.
The first track, Anacreonte, sets out the stall admirably for the rest of the album – ‘youth has gone now’ sings Cecilia Miradoli over blissed out chilled synth, and then a beat kicks in, a heavy, oppressive guitar line insinuates itself into the music, and she talks of throwing herself off high white cliffs, ‘again and again’. It’s hypnotic and disturbing in equal measure, the menace of the music contrasting with the angelic quality of the singing and the doomed tone of the lyric.
The title track, Parallel, follows on from this hard to top opener, but it’s a sign of how strong a track this is, that it manages to hold its own, and in no way feels like a drop in quality. Anything but, in fact. Again, Miradoli combines the sweetest of singing with breathy, whispered (occasionally distorted) spoken word sections, in another emotional rollercoaster of a lyric.
Ostensibly about the inevitable end of every relationship, in death if nothing else, the video makes the band’s dual intent even clearer – images of collapsing cliffs, tsunami floods and oil spilled in water flow into scenes of the band members, masked against Covid, facing off against unmasked versions of themselves.
Too soon all the times, all the times I blamed you
shall vanish to nothing and the days and nights
will go to be buried forever
Glass Soul and Corri are stripped back, less intense experiences, with gentle drums and Max Tarenzi’s softly jangling guitar providing backing for Miradoli as she sings a more traditional trip-hoppy vocal of the sort that Beth Gibbons made her trademark back in the day. They’re lovely songs, gloomy in a luxurious kind of way, and provide a bit of breathing space after the first two tracks.
Too Late begins with more drums and guitar and Miradoli whispering across the top of her own wordless backing, but quickly kicks up a notch, as the guitar and the vocals distort and the singer describes losing her love and being dragged into the sea. ‘Today my heart is as dry as an extinguished star’, she says in a twisted, otherworldly voice, while the music speeds up, the bass bounces in heavy, heavy notes and everything gets a little louder. ‘I tried to escape’, she moans, but you just know that she’s not going anywhere.
Atoms and Dust is, however, the other key track on the album, one of a pair of cornerstones of the band’s vision this time round. Once more, Miradoli sings of nothing less than the end of the world, the extinction of humanity and a return to the dust from which we came. It’s a powerful, and very pertinent both now, as climate change threatens us all, and even more so at the time of writing the album, in 2020, at the height of lockdown, with almost all of the world’s human population forced to isolate inside.
We are atoms and dust that will fall to the earth / when will we return to breath?
It’s not a long song, not even three minutes, but the music is more edgy and violent than elsewhere, and the vocals more heartbroken – full of longing for something undefined but lost. It’s a song with a dark core, but one which never forgets to include the beautiful.
Hidden Wonders and The Hour of Now round the album off with a dual hit of dreampop infused dreamscapes, in the latter case with Miradoli initially singing over the top of a pulsing heartbeat before a bass heavy, largely instrumental slice of menacingly trippy otherness brings proceedings to a close.
This is a layered album of genuine complexity, one which will repay repeat listening. It’s to the credit of Fruit de Mer, best known as a komische/psych label that they ignored the fact this was outside their comfort zone and released this first on CD and soon on vinyl. Definitely one to pick up, while it’s available.
❉ Pinhdar: ‘Parallel’ ((Fruits de Mer; Cat. No. Friends of the Fish 44) available as a download and digipak CD. In late-summer, Fruits de Mer will be releasing the album on full-run vinyl – release planned for early September. You can hear all of the tracks on their bandcamp page.
❉ Stuart Douglas is an author, and editor and owner of the publisher Obverse Books. He has written four Sherlock Holmes novels and can be found on twitter at @stuartamdouglas