By: Greg Gargiulo
Character. Pnuma Trio is soaked in it. Miles from your average rank and file electronica, Pnuma has been gradually carving their niche in the scene in a fashion that's fresh and crisp, their own aggressive game plan devoid of any pigeonholing constrictions. On Character (1320 Records), their studio debut, the Trio has successfully parlayed their live act into a record with an accessible amalgamation of drum & bass, glitch, hip-hop, dubstep and breakbeat, touched with organic instrumentation to forge a brand of sound that is exclusively Pnuma.
What Pnuma - sometimes billed as Pnuma Duo when performing Live PA sets - brings to the proverbial table on Character is anything but ordinary or generic when it comes to the electronic/jam movement. Instead of simply following a repetitious formula based on something like intro/break/buildup/break/glorious climax, the Memphis natives (now based out of Boulder) organize diverse structure and progression to each incarnation on the album. Consequentially, every track - whether through orchestrated strings on "Ending10seconds," emotive pianos on "Prefresh" or otherwise - takes on a shape and vitality of its own. Each creation, essentially, becomes a character.
The in-your-face heavyweight "More Samples" could be the hypothetical hybrid of a Jacob's Ladder being hooked up to a beat machine for experimentation purposes. The main riff comes off like an electrified current, sending rungs of voltage up each end of the ladder and into your ears, as additional programmed beats and textures swim in and out of the nucleus. These types of digitized samples and snippets are found in every corner of the album, but never to the point of over-saturation. Pnuma proves they are excellent regulators of time and that they understand how to properly distribute said effects well.
"Prefresh" is a prime example. Like a fresh breathe of autumn oxygen to the lungs, it cleanses and revitalizes in an impeccable manner, registering just right on every level. Not overly bass-dominated or drum-driven, each exotic portion moves and succeeds in a style that somehow quenches every audible desire at once, like an everlasting gobstopper that morphs into something more pleasant with each revealing layer.
Though most beats on the disc are primarily mechanical, established through various forms of machinery, the group's collective tempo savvy, prodigious drummer Lane Shaw still manages to keep time on a few select tracks the traditional way, with wooden sticks and a physical drum kit. His presence is particularly evident in the dramatic apex of "Everynight" and "Off Balance," a driven piece in which the remaining two-thirds of the band - Ben Hazlegrove on keys and Alex Botwin on bass - provide funky, spacey tweaks to march along with the rolling snare.
The Trio further conveys their linkage to hip-hop culture with appearances from Ced Hughes on "11:27" and Rashaan Ahmad on a second version of "Ending10seconds." With their feet firmly placed in a number of musical cross-sections, Pnuma can dabble and provide a backdrop for MCs to rap over that doesn't seem out of place or unnatural.
Relative fledglings on the tour circuit (they've only been together since '04), Pnuma has already legitimized themselves live through ambitious gigging and eye-catching performances. With Character, they've further announced their presence and the momentum that they continue to build.
Here's Pnuma at Exodus Music Festival in Australia.
JamBase | Inside The Machine
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