Picastro: You — This is not an album for the faint of heart. It is a dark, heavy, broken dream. Picastro‘s You is an elegant haunting; the weighted feelings evoked from the music on this album are truly a testament to what modern experimental music can accomplish. The album cover truly signifies what the listener is in for. It is the descent, the beautiful fall from grace while still maintaining a sober awareness. You is heavy. Not heavy like in metal or hardcore. Not heavy as in volume and over fuzzed guitars and slow stomping bass lines. It is heavy in the way the woods become at night when only a cool breeze trickles in from the north. It is heavy in the way a heart lies down to sleep when nothing seems to be changing.
So, how does Picastro capture the sound of a haunted soul?
Arpeggios. Minor scale arpeggios, transcendent and cutting vocals, strange ambient sounds, and planned, accented drums. First, lets talk about those arpeggios and minor scales. I believe there are multiple times where diminished and augmented chords and scales are lilted in there as well. For those of who geek out over music theory, you will have a field day with this. For those who just love interesting and different sounding chords and melody lines, this is an album for you. With the cello often doubling the picked acoustic guitar lines, a strong musical melody is established. And with the chord structures they’re using, it stirs the blood in the veins. With using ‘alternative’ chords, it may sound like some notes clash with one another; but don’t be fooled. That only steadies the ambiance to a single candle struggling to stay lit on a dark autumn night in the wild-lands.
Second, there is the lovely, broken vocals of Liz Hysen. If you are looking for traditional glossy female vocals where every note is glittered and polished, look elsewhere my friend. Growing up in the world of choral music and studying classical vocal singing for years, I often would find myself being critical and cynical of singers hitting ‘wrong notes’. Are there times where the dancing melody and harmonies stumble a step, yes. But we must remember, this album, for all its ‘abnormal’ chords and notes, is experimental. And when you find yourself sinking into this abyss, you must remember that these notes are all purposeful. An album with this type of musicality is a testament to the musical theory knowledge of Picastro’s band members. The vocals are another layer adding to the glorious darkness of You.
Third, no haunting can be considered legitimate without strange, off-putting sounds. When I say off-putting, do not confuse that with bad. The clinked out high-notes on an old piano, plunked and stained strings on a violin, even accents of electric guitars all fill in the vast spaces of this album. There are several occasions where I am unsure of what instrument, if it even is one, is contributing to the tracks, and I enjoy that. It only adds to the mysterious vibe of the album.
Finally, there is the percussion. The drums on You play a dual role. First, there is the traditional keeping of the beat. The other instruments and vocals would be too languid on their own. So, often the drums fill a more traditional role. But there are other times where the percussion is used solely as accents. It goes off beat, a cymbal here, snare tap there. It becomes crackling branches, knocking shuttered windows. It is the backbone in keeping this album weighted and dark.
Now, you may have noticed I haven’t mentioned any specific tracks. That is because this album is an art piece and its elements need to be appreciated. The songs are just vessel, in my opinion. But there are standout tracks, don’t get me wrong. The opening track, ‘Mountain Relief’, eases into the vibe of the album. A cello and a bare strummed acoustic guitar pave the way for the vocals, “I turned a mountain into a relief / I shoot the harm out of everything.” The third track, ‘Endlessly’, is where a slight Southern-Gothic feel begins to take precedent. The fifth track, ‘That’s It’ is where the arpeggios, slinking vocals and accented drums woozily enter the scene.
This album is a journey through the night. It is strange, beautiful and heavier than any hard rock can claim to be. But remember, this is not an album for beginners. It is not clean and does not try to be. It is honest…8.5/10