Menage a Rock

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2005
Shakey has a jarring yet strangely comforting vibration running through it

Pit Er Pat
Shakey
(Thrill Jockey)

I have been told that when it comes to recreational intercourse among enthusiastic partners that three is indeed the magic number. Sadly, my chance to swim in this pool myself evaporated with graduation of college, when a girlfriend long ago once informed me that "Me and Kim were drunk one night and were going to 'pay you a visit' in your dorm room, but you were still sorta dating Susan then." My internal response was the same now as it was then: Say what? Dammit! Always apologize later rather than ask permission! Plus, you knew I was about to break up with Susan to start dating you! Ah well. It probably is better in imagination than it would've been in reality, this sighing music nerd tells himself as he reaches for a now-lukewarm cup of coffee.

Fortunately, the trio has been long in effect in musical circles for me to enjoy from the emotional safety and disease-freedom of my headphones. From countless jazz threesomes to the venerated rock power trio, this format seems to allow each member just enough voice. John Cage said if you have three sounds in space, you effectively have created a sonic sculpture, something with tangible shape and experiential existence, and I believe that. The dynamic keeps things from getting to introspective, too doey-eyed between two people. Chicago-based art-rock trio Pit Er Pat's history embody this perfectly. Originally assembled to support some now unimportant flighty singer/songwriter who ditched them for the supposedly brighter lights of NYC, they were forced to pool their resources to create a shows' worth of material for some now leaderless but still booked performances.

The interplay between cymbal-tastic drummer Butchy Fuego (Chicago must be an ideal natural habitat for drummers, given it's burgeoning population) Rob Doran's (an original memeber of the Alkaline Trio) groovy bass underbelly and the melodiousness of Fay Davis-Jeffers' keyboard and vocal stylings make this a deliciously tight and and singular triad. Shakey has a jarring yet strangely comforting vibration running through it, that reminds one of maybe Sterolab, but only on the surface similarities of steady pulse, female vocals and synth lines. "Bird" opens this little enigma with a densely intertwined shifting melody with each part being propped up by the other. The clockwork kicks into high gear with the rapid drum shuffle of "Gated Community" and slows down on the oddly melodic (not that its odd that they have a melody, but their melodies are definitely odd) "Un-Oh."

"False Face" picks up with a crystalline solid groove, present throughout the album but highlighted here, and coming to full flower on "Underwater Wave Game" (click here to listen). The finely women tapestries these three make are not just limited to the music they create, but their tentacles reach out into the arts community as well (The band name comes from a phrase found in a painting by Chicago art mainstay Jim Nutt) and in the offering of tasty crafts for you, the astute reader, to win. (See our contest with Thrill Jockey) but unless you are denizen of that metropolis amongst the corn and cannot personally join their cult, or if you are not in a position to engage in the giggly nakedness of two others, this threesome is a viable, engaging substitute.

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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