4 out of 5
Label: My Pal God Records
Produced by: Jason Ward (recorded by)
Del Rey had to find their place in the expansive instrumental math-rock world. They had a shtick – two drummers, electronics – alongside the usual guitar and bass interplay, and pushed that shtick pretty hard on debut album Speak It Not Aloud, resulting in the group’s admirable skills and songcraft being somewhat subsumed by that shtick. On followup Darkness & Distance, the group erred more toward heft, prioritizing riffage. It was definitely a more focused release overall, but that rocking-ness didn’t seem to quite be Del Rey’s passion, and so the album peters out over its runtime.
Taking some more breathing time between that release and A Pyramid For The Living, DR seem to finally have settled on what they want to bring to the scene, not leaving behind blasts of distortion or doubled-up drumming or electronic bleeps and bloops, but also not forcing themselves to make that a forefront addition to any given song. The album’s title, to me, speaks to this more aligned, confident mentality. Not the sturm & drang tone of their previous two albums’ names, it’s almost a religious sounding sentiment, and song lengths have increased to the double digit mark; it’s the group at peace with itself, and taking their time to make each song count.
Which they do. Every moment feels like it matters on ‘Pyramid;’ songs linger, but it’s with purpose – establishing a mood or bringing in a new element and then seeding it into the whole, letting that gel, then twisting down another road. The layered drums and burble of effects are earned surprises and not affectations; peaks of songs hit in a unique fashion, as though we’re always circling around them – the peaks are always visible – but the group is conserving itself for when it’s most sensible to proceed. That sounds pretty calculated, I suppose; yet, it’s that very absolute sense of control that makes the songs so dramatic, like watching an Olympian go through a precise routine. And through this, we still get our moments to rock out, they’re just arrived at via slow-build patience, gently strummed along on the ebb and flow of A Brief Strangle, or the electronic pitter-patter of closer Euphrates. The difference between this approach and former albums is that those slow-building moments are wholly worthwhile on their own, making any given section of the album a grand experience, rife with flourish and details that bloom more and more on each relisten.