Pineal Ventana
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Living Soil , 6.5/10
Breathe As You Might , 5/10
Malpractice , 5/10
Axes to Ice , 6/10
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Pineal Ventana is an unusual combo formed in 1993 in Atlanta (Georgia) that plays rock music with the help of dissonance, samples, violins and saxophones. The center of gravity if Clara Clamp's singing, that borrows quite a bit from the emphatically gothic delivery of Siouxsie Sioux. Shane Pringle uses the saxophone to produce long droning sounds that harmonize with her voice. Mitch Foy beats on his drums like a madman: his tribal percussions ignite most of the band's compositions with an almost sufi whirlwind of rhythm. The guitar (Kim Chee) ends up being the least important of the instruments.

The self-produced EP Stagnancy Is Revolting (1994) couples a relatively straightforward song, Umbilical Operator, with a long instrumental improvisational track, Pathfinder.

The EP Philosopher's Stone (Half Baked, 1994) is slightly less experimental. Philosopher's Stone, Cheese Of The Month Club, Attack of the 50 ft Cannibal Clown are wildly eccentric, but not too noisy.

The band sounds like a small orchestra on their first full-length, Living Soil (Half Baked, 1995), highlighted by a bold mixture of improvisation, saxophone, wild singing and electronics. Dark madrigals like Indica and Mark Of Zero alternate with nightmarish litanies like Abre La Ventana and Ode To Tetsuo. play a key role in Coming On. Their gothic industrial noise-rock dissolves in the restrained folly of Negate Of Want. The animal wails of the saxophone and the pounding beats keep the music always edgy and psychotic.

The 12" EP Let Them Fuck (Scuss Media, 1997) contains Let Them Fuck and the lengthy The Screen (that goes from ambient drones to Crash Worship tribal drumming).

Jason LaFarge on guitar and violin and John Whitaker on bass joined the ranks in time for Breathe As You Might (Altered, 1997), a more song-oriented work whose Waterlogged and Spindlewick are almost traditional. Only three tracks are free improvisations.

The progression marked by that album and the following EP Expel (Shoestring, 1998) peaks with Malpractice (Unit Circle Rekkids, 1999), the least adventurous and least disorienting of their albums.
The dirge-like ouverture, Hollow, is sung over weeping violin and funereal cello. The distorted and psychedelic Crack In The Light, the theatrical and dissonant Rats For Belmer feature intriguing combinations, but they last too little to be qualified as avantgarde pieces.
Siouxsie towers over several of these ceremonies. A martial beat, surf guitar and solemn saxophone accompany Clamp's screaming in The Hooded Mirror, but the tribal Taenia Solium and A Hollow Margin Forgotten fail to improve on the original.

The sound is even denser and darker on Axes to Ice (Unit Circle Rekkids, 2000). The band has found its true voice in a deragend form of rock and roll that leverages on tribal drums and the singer's wild persona. Overall, the album is more emphatic than ever. Neurosis and adrenaline overflow from the "danse macabre" of Breach Denial, that features Sonic Youth-y guitar strumming, tension-filled pauses a` la Type O Negative, and a continuous quarrel between the male and female voices. That emphatic exorcism drowns into Control's afflicted tale, a Clamp's childish "la-la" surrendering to her mate's angry rapping, while the music grows into a spasmodic, thunderous heavy-metal merry-go-round. Loud guitar distortions and electronic shocks tear apart the song, while Clamp metamorphoses into Bjork. Pineal Ventana draws from Cop Shoot Cop and Steel Pole Bath Tub to assemble songs as sonic puzzles. The morbid rant of Divide borders on death metal, but is devastated by drones of guitar and keyboards.
Whatever is happening to the playing and the singing, the sound of tribal drums never lets go. Drums permeate on Pineal Ventana's music like pipe organs rule over Catholic liturgy.
The exception is the most ambitious track, the 12-minute concrete suite One Held The Key, an experiment in sound collage, a stream of mostly dissonant and often distorted events.
This album marks an impressive progress in all directions: a broader sonic and stylistic palette, dynamic and dramatic staging of vocal duets, refined arrangements, psychological depth.

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