Transcending Genre on Pyrithe’s “Monuments to Impermanence” (album stream + interview)

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Where do we go when there’s no more ground to cover? Gender is a flat plain of various intersecting spectra, and each individual point operates within the constraints of its specific genre (or genres). Fusion is cool, but for all intents and purposes, it combines two things without really appreciating the nuances of each part and how it can magnify its partnership style. Pittsburgh Progressive(?) Slime Trio pyrite break free from this flat and planar philosophy and soar above the genre in a rarely found third dimension, spinning from style to style, without constraint.

I put a question mark after declaring Pyrithe’s style or genre simply because their longtime debut Monuments to impermanence isn’t really anything special, at least other than heavy and without compromise. Sometimes resembling (and heavily influenced by) the progressive school of sludge that was prevalent in the early to mid-2000s, along with a giant AmRep-shaped chip on the shoulder, metal/rock/whatever the complex and even experimental of Pyrithe is the sum of three talented and creative musicians who feed off each other in a quasi-live environment. There is an energy to Monuments to impermanence which makes me want to not call it mud, but there’s this tuned riff that makes a solid point for this genre. These kinds of dualities and multiplicities define what makes Pyrithe’s debut album a massively creative one. To listen Monuments to impermanence and read an interview with drummer and vocalist John Kerr below.

Pyrithe songs tend to have a complicated structure. What happens in the assembly of a Pyrite song?

No one in the band has ever presented a completely arranged song and I don’t think they ever will. Almost every piece of music manifests itself through jamming and trying different things until something sticks. We add and revise and add and subtract and revise and add and revise and subtract and revise and etc until there is something that we would call a song. Some songs are not structured at all, with at most a beginning or an end. Some songs started out that way and now have time signatures and tempo changes mapped out.

So it depends I guess. I’m pretty bad at describing how we work because a lot of it isn’t even verbal. We’re good at groaning at each other until we all figure out what we mean.

There’s a looser live vibe that pervades Monuments to impermanence. Was the album recorded live? How was the process of recording and producing an album like this?

The basic rock and roll instrumentation was recorded live with the three of us in the same room, looking deep into each other’s eyes. The remaining layers were put together with the three of us staring at a computer screen in my “home studio”. Our ears were hearing more layers than our bodies could produce simultaneously, so we gradually added vocals, lead instrumentation, and various crap to the original tracks until we found an album.

The ID3’d genre tags on my promotional copy refer to Pyrithe as “Prog-Rock/Art Rock”. Do you agree with this estimate? How would you classify Pyrith?

Pyrith, it’s me, Zach and Weston. People can categorize us however they want, but Pyrithe is the three of us making music together. That’s really the only way to think about it. We all have such specific inspirations and approaches that if one of us needs to stop doing that for whatever reason, the band is over. Any “replacement” would make it a new group.

But of all the ID4D3D3s out there, I guess it’s fine. We’re prog in the sense that our songs change a lot and rarely repeat a lot of riffs, but we’re not fucking Yes either. I also think Art Rock is a really funny label because it implies that other rock is not art. Why would you need to specify that?

Monuments to impermanence embraces absurdity with a playful reverence to style and influence. How do you seek to transmute your influences into your own niche of noise rock and sludge?

I think we just made a very human record. There are moments that are the most heartfelt and moving music I’ve ever been involved with, but one of the tracks has a section that was really intended as a joke. It makes no sense to me that evocations of humor or joy are seemingly verboten in modern heavy music. Laughter and jovial camaraderie have led to more examples of deep catharsis and transcendence than any despair or struggle I have experienced. That’s how people persevere and I think we can rob those feelings of their emotional weight by not exploring them in extreme music.

It took five years from the creation of Pyrithe for Monuments to Impermanence to be published. Why did it take so long?

Like countless bands, we had the misfortune to complete a record in early 2020. With the disarray of the music industry and existence in general, it felt more like a two to three year gestation than five. As we literally didn’t know what the band was going to be when we started and had never played music together before, I think it’s pretty fast progress considering our ambitions.

The album features a small arsenal of guests, with talents ranging from vocals to kantele and something called “soft egg” (hello, Shalin!). What made you choose these particular people and how do you feel about all these additional elements brought to Monuments to Impermanence?

We absolutely would have worked with Max and Shalin from Noltem under any circumstances, but they happened to be physically with us in the studio. For the unknown, I am also the drummer of Noltem and our album Illusions in the wake was recorded the same week as Monuments to impermanence in the same studio. It was more convenient for me to release two records at the same time and they were able to help us when changing bands. Max later overdubs his kantele for “Heaving Roots II” because we felt the song needed more movement in the treble.

Most of the vocals and lyrics are mine, but our original singer Vicky takes care of everything on “Glioblastoma”. It was important for us to represent this initial formation on this album. And we’re big fans of Pyrrhon (the first half of the band’s name was unintentional and I’m only realizing that now), so Doug was one of the first people we thought of when the discussions with the guests have begun. He graciously agreed to write lyrics and sing for an entire song because he rules.

I’ve seen a few reviews and articles that, in so many words, describe Pyrithe as challenging and experimental. Do you think Pyrithe and your approach are difficult?

I think we’re picky in the sense that we refuse to stick to a specific songwriting approach or genre, which I’m sure is boring for some people. Songs like “Glioblastoma” and “Ekphrastik” might sound like completely different bands to someone, but to us, these songs are all incomplete without each other. At the end of the day we’re still a rock band with guitars, bass and drums and I don’t think we do anything that will shock anyone exposed to extreme music, even from a distance , but execution may take some accustomed time.

Monuments to impermanence releases April 29 on Gilead Media.

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