I?ve been told by many that I?m not getting enough beats in my diet. And I love drums. The problem is that the tiniest rhythm can get lodged in my brain and cause me to forget about everything else around it. In writing a review, they are bear traps. It becomes hard for me to focus on anything else. I avoid beats in their many forms, shielding myself with drone and atonality, but I cannot win. I hear them in every mechanical malfunction, every passing SUV, and all those trebly snares in every earphone of misbehaving students. So for now, I must surrender to this rhythm, if only in the time to review these Thread Pulls EPs. Titled ?Fluorescent 1-3?, Thread Pulls have pieced together a triptych of post-punk informed, Krautrock inspired albums that wear their influence in their rhythms as much as their titles. While most of these songs are ultimately satisfying, lots of snare-kick simplicity and dry vocals hold back a few too many tracks.
?Fluorescent 1? was definitely my favorite of the three discs. Two details set it apart: 1) the disc is completely instrumental 2) it also happens to be the longest of the three discs. In instrumental mode, their minimalist aesthetic really shines through on these five tracks. With vocals, as you shall see, their songs can sound as hokey post-punk moto-rhythm, a dry, danceless Franz Ferdinand on a micro-label. But without the vocalizing, the minimalism comes off as a genuine stylistic choice. An imposed almost-handicap that causes their sound palette to constantly writhe within its confinement into new odd shapes. ?Mirror More? shows bits of percussion dancing around the maypole bass throb. ?Cluster? mimics its name sake, recalling those first albums with hard-panned guitar feedback in one ear, and free percussion in the other. Still sounds great. ?More heat? has a mutant funk drum player and some low-key, ominous electronics filling in the dead space. ?Ls.? is a short, lovely ambient piece much in the vein of the Pop Ambient releases from the Euro Mainland.
?Fluorescent 2? starts off in a much more alien terrain. High-pitched electronics whir and echo then give way to the singer intoning ?this is how? and continues to sing/speak/babble vague slogans over a dry kick-snare beat. The electronics take over in the second half and completely steal the show, merging with the simple drum line for an almost head nod worthy experience. This is ?Give me new noise?: an introduction to Thread Pulls in vocal mode. If you haven?t got the point by now, I?m not really feeling the vocals. But when they are mixed with some of the interesting synthesizer jams, they work a lot better. Problem is, the vocals are usually backed by a super minimal drum beat and some subdued synthesizers, putting the bland lyrical chants too much in the fore of our attention. That?s applicable for ?My head weight? especially. At five-minutes, it just felt like it needed more. I?m not asking for an oversaturated mix where all tone is diluted, but I would like to see the elements intermingle and develop in a more interesting way.
?Fluorescent 3? is depressingly short at a slim twelve minutes with three tracks to go around. The vocal songs here, especially ?This heat got hotter?, are much stronger with the addition of a bass line (minimal as all else) and a more pronounced melody to the vocals. That track really could use a change of title but we won?t take off any points for that. ?Cycle Path? has an indie-friendly low-key guitar/drum interplay with 80s new wave keyboards anchoring down the back and yet another vocal performance that doesn?t wander far from its point of departure. The track breaks halfway through; feedback and synth slowly feel around this drum-less, voiceless void then disappear in a haze of space distress signals. ?Nice XX? actually has some impassioned vocal chants with (you got it) a super simple drumbeat and angular bass groove locked in corps march repetition. More spacey new wave synths fill out the latter half of this track nicely though the chants always come back, reminding us to be ?nice xx? or whatever.
Beside my criticisms of the style, I really like the way these guys are handling these three releases. Each can be disc can be ordered for a modest price and come in individualized handmade/ hand-drawn packages in DVD cases limited to 100 each. So for those skeptical, they also have all their releases, including a remix album using ?Flourescent 3? as source material, free for download from the 9-pt website. I think this is a cool strategy that many a young label has employed to get their music out there, yet still produce quality releases for fans. We simply don?t have ten dollars for every new band on the market these days, much as we?d like to, so why not give us some mp3s to whet the palette? Do you really want everyone working off my opinion? So for those interested in hearing a new take on electronic post-punk minimalism, give it a shot. I?d say this is definitely the kind of group fans of new school groovies Liars, No Age, or even Gang Gang Dance, would dig. Thread Pulls definitely have a groove, however rigid, in mind. I?m sure there are plenty out there who will be feeling this enough to buy the nice releases. Or at least give this band a listen in the future. 6/10 -- Kenneth Zubiate (14 November, 2007)