Has Brian Pyle, of Starving Weirdos fame, ever been busier? It feels like only a few months ago that I was writing about Ensemble Economique’s rather marvellous Standing Still, Facing Forward record, released on the Amish label, praising the way it blended “the kosmische with minimalist classical to create something powerful and cinematic”. With this pair of (even) new(er) albums Pyle has pushed even further out into the fields of drone and imaginary soundtracks. So intense, and so good, is this burst of activity that I’m beginning to wonder why the hell I’m still calling him “Brian Pyle, of Starving Weirdos fame”.
Last heard on an experimental side of a split LP with Taiga Remains on Blackest Rainbow, RV Paintings is Brian and Jon Pyle’s fraternal formation. With Samoa Highway, the first LP to be released by the Helen Scarsdale Agency, they have produced a more focused set of deep meditative drone and ever-so-slightly creepy field recordings. The title refers to a bridge that runs through (their home) Humboldt County, passing a local airport. And so “Millions” begins with the sound of jet airplanes screaming through a haze of humming guitars, but the muffled bangs and rumbles in the background almost relocate the piece across the world to the Tora Bora mountains. As with several tracks on the album, the fog slowly clears to leave peaceful melody line; piano in this case, organs more commonly. “Mirrors”, with its churning strings, begins like a cousin of “With You At Brandy Creek” from the last Ensemble Economique record, before increasing layers of echoing voices, footsteps and watery drip consume it: a cellist busking in the underpass that connects California to the netherworld.
Pyle’s new Ensemble Economique release is everything that the last one was but more so. More kosmische, more ethnic instrumentation, and much much more cinematic. Given all those elements, it unsurprisingly sits well in a set of records that includes the soundtrack work by Can and Popol Vuh (it even looks the part in its gorgeous movie poster sleeve). A horror movie air of menace pervades, from the wailing of synths that swamps the tablas of “Hail”, to the ghostly voices of the title track, and to the spiralling, tension-building wall of psych guitar supplied by Charalambides’s Tom Carter during “Real Thing”. The closing track “Bonfires” brings the ethnic percussion and the screaming instrumentation together with a truly unholy cacophony of echoing chants and tolling bells. In taking his vision to the big screen, Psychical marks a big leap forward for Pyle. Available now from Not Not Fun, and elsewhere.