Wednesday 8 February 2023

Pyramid Suns - Reflections (2023)

Country: Malta
Style: Progressive Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 13 Jan 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

I'm calling this album progressive rock for the sake of a label, and there's certainly a lot of prog in it, but it covers a lot of ground, albeit mostly without getting too anything. It's always restrained, as if the band is camped out on a subway platform playing for tips and there are noise ordinances against too much volume that they must heed. I'm carefully avoiding the word soft, even though it sprang quickly to mind because that carries many implications and most are not applicable here in the slightest. This isn't surface music. It's music to dive into and explore. Just not very loudly.

The prog is most obvious in the drums of Luke Briffa, who may be the only change that the line-up has ever seen having joined in 2020. He drives the shifts in time signature and everyone's happy to follow his lead. It's easy music to listen to but Briffa kept me on the hop. Every time I thought I was being lulled into a false sense of security, he'd change it up again and I'd find myself focusing on a new rhythm. Songs like Dust don't play it simple from the outset and only get more complex with time. On occasion, it's almost like Briffa is soloing on his drums without ever getting flash.

The most urgent song here is probably the first one, The Desert, which sounds like it's a post-punk number with some anger left over from before it was post-anything. That mindset continues for a majority of the album with an array of influences popping out to say hi at odd moments. I caught a little Joy Division at points in the bass of Keith Fenech and some Ultravox in the subtle electronic rhythms in songs like Instinctive Lust. It's fascinating to catch little glimpses of bands when songs shift approach. I just wish I could remember all of them. The unusual percussion in Interlude feels very familiar but I can't place it.

The loosest song is surely Groove Academy, which flirts overtly with funk, that bass suddenly a far cry from Joy Division, and turns into jazz fusion. Cold Wind feels much more regimented than it is entirely because it follows Groove Academy. Leave the album and come back directly to that song and it feels tight, but keep the album playing so it rolls from Groove Academy into Cold Wind and it's almost military in its strictness. It's a vibrant song though, with hints of the Police underneath it pushing it forward.

Given the bands I've thrown out as comparisons thus far, it must seem surprising if I throw out the Allman Brothers Band on The Fool, but it's not a wild departure from the rest of the album. Their country-tinged southern rock translates here into a sort of post-punk Tool, which is wild. I think I'd call this one my favourite track, though Violet would fight it for that title, meaning that this ends on a couple of real high notes. Violet is the most psychedelic rock song on offer, but there's also a Jimmy Page vibe to the riff, a blues based No Quarter echo with its hints of the middle east, even though it's accompanied by didgeridoo rather than an Egyptian string section.

It's a fascinating sound and it's a fantastic way for this album to wrap up after travelling to all the places it's been up to that point. I presume Pyramid Suns have been collecting these sounds for a while now, because they've been around since 2014 but this is only their debut album. I have little idea what sort of rock scene there is in Malta, which is a relatively small country, and it wouldn't surprise me to find that there's just a music scene with diverse bands playing multiple genres at the same gigs. If this is an example of the product, the first album I've reviewed from Malta, then I'm intrigued as to what else is going on there.

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