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Pill - "Soft Hell" | Album Review


by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)

If you’re not hip to Pill’s brand of post-punk/no wave/jazz freakout, now would be a good time to get on board. They’ve been putting out some wonderfully wild and aggressive music that isn’t afraid to challenge the ears. Their new album Soft Hell showcases all they’ve done so well the past three years while pushing their sound forward, refining the chaos they breed and giving shape to the simmering rage that lies underneath. It is music that is definitely worth your time and rewards those willing to go along for the ride.

Starting with the B-Side to their first single, the album launches you into their musical world. “A.I.Y.M” (Am I Your Man) is full of venom with sax wails to rival Bill Pullman’s character in Lost Highway. Benjamin Jaffe’s saxophone is so prominently featured it almost acts as the lead guitar. This frees up guitarist Jon Campolo to take his guitar lines in wild directions, sometimes offering compliment, sometimes going off on a tangent of its own. The interplay between the two give Pill their unique sound. Singer and bassist Veronica Torres provides the rumble, her bass lines hypnotically drawing you in, the low thunder that’s always threatening her lightning strike vocal delivery. Her words spit current through the speakers. Andrew Spaulding’s drums explode and crash, driving the chaos head on into your brain. It can be a pummeling listening experience, but it’s not all chaos and barely contained fury. As Pill has progressed, so has their song-craft. The back half of the album shows off a more nuanced Pill.

Soft Hell almost feels sequenced like a career retrospective. As the album progresses, parts are taken in and refined and polished. This isn’t a wholesale revamp by any means. Pill is unmistakably heard in every note, breath, and wail. Highlights like “HAHA” with its heavy Les Savy Fav vibe, the all Spanish “Sin Compromiso” (Without Obligation), and the instrumental title track engage your ears in unique ways, never letting the listener settle or become complacent. By the end you’ve been taken into new territory. Only there’s no resolution, no end point to the subjects being worked out in their music. “What I am allowed to create or destroy?” Torres sings on “Power Abuser.” It’s a question Pill only asks of itself.