Following up 2015’s Bottom of the Morning, Fort Worth, Texas experimental duo Pinkish Black return with Concept Unification. The band’s sound has always been difficult to pigeonhole, consequently they have attracted a diverse audience. Often finding themselves lumped into the metal genre, there’s really nothing metal about them at all. That said, they’re certainly as dark and brooding as any doom-y guitar riff by a band who puts pentagrams and skulls on their t-shirts. What’s more, “experimental” seems like a befuddled shrug of categorization. While the band doesn’t adhere to typical song structures, they’re certainly more listenable than what most identify with the genre (if you can even call “experimental” a genre). The band creates atmospheres, builds tension, and confounds the pop aesthetic at every turn.
Daron Beck (vocals, synths, keyboards) and Jon Teague (drums, synths) certainly create a sound that is greater than the sum of its parts. If you didn’t know better, you could be convinced there were four or five musicians in the band. That said, things aren’t crowded in terms of mix or arrangement, rather the subtle, building instrumentation is formed upon an anxious tension that looms, swirls, and turns back on itself.
Songs like the opening title-track and “Dial Tone” sound like they could’ve been included on film director Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy soundtrack with their ominous overtones and chant-like vocals. Instrumental tracks “Petit Mal” and “Inanimotronic” show the band can go in both directions without vocals and lyrics. “Petit Mal,” with it’s hypnotic groove, and “Inanimotronic,” with its plodding doom, could have served as book ends to the album, but Pinkish Black stuff them in the middle of these six songs, not to challenge the listener, but to prove that vocals can be an inconsequential instrument when you’ve built a broad soundscape that captures emotions typically conveyed with words. “Next Solution” closes out the album with an opening piano line that bleeds into a slow building and crushing chord progression. As synths and keyboards come together then drift apart, a foreboding sense of the unknown remains.
The digital release includes two bonus tracks, the synth driven “Away Again” and the industrial sounding “We Wait.” If you’re a vinyl buyer, you’ll want to go ahead and grab the digital version as these tracks continue the journey set forth by the core album tracks. Whether they push you further against the wall or open you up to an unexpected dimension, they certainly fall in line with the path blazed by their predecessors. These aren’t just tacked on b-sides, but solid additions to the album as a whole.
Concept Unification is one of the most interesting and provocative releases of the year. Whether you’re into metal or experimental music doesn’t matter. If you like dark, cinematic, and challenging music, Pinkish Black deliver.
– J. Kevin Lynch