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Learning Curve

by Roger Young / Images by Jacques Snow / 03.11.2011

Peach Van Pletzen AKA Yesterday’s Pupil is at an interesting intersection; he’s left behind the one-man-band persona and is now in electronics-guy-behind-a-desk mode, but he’s also becoming a vocalist. When electronica acts perform they can often look like someone trying to angrily slam down a cellphone, it’s hard to feel the effect of the button pushing. The fact that Assembly crowds are notorious for giving dead energy to even slightly experimental music isn’t going to make it any easier, especially on Halloween.

The melody of the first song, something about “it” being impossible, is already familiar even though this is only the second time I’ve heard the new material. Such is the skill of the Pupil’s songwriting; he really knows how to drive a hook. It switches between short sequencer throbs and Vangelis with a beat on the off count. By the second song it’s obvious that he’s found the button for edge-of-universe-hallelujah chorus. It gets all soundtrack-to-an-underwater-search for a bit, breaking into a electronic improv session of bleeps and squeals and then speeds into a slappy kind of funk riff.

Most of the set thus far has been using the keyboard as a choral voice, soundscapey with the light striking though clouds, of robots. On the next track, after a piano intro, Peach comes out from behind the desk, straps on his guitar and mildly freaks out, it’s here that the crowd’s attention piques, from staring open mouthed, they begin to air punch and get into it. It’s the interaction more than the music though. Maybe this is Peach’s Zebra and Giraffe moment, where he has to pull in a touring band, or electro gimp, to allow him to be able perform his songs.

Learning Curve - Yesterday's Pupil

Up until this point, the set has built nicely, a journey through a shifting landscape of intersecting electronica feelings. But then the Pupil drops his single, the poppy, earnest and endearingly earwormy, “Too Tired To Disco”. It’s out of place in the set and breaks the rhythm of the build up, like a little sister inserting an Blur song into the middle of your Brian Eno playlist. Yet the upbeat vibe of it suddenly has flurries of people in bad Sailor Moon costumes breaking into impromptu jigs.

For “Lines and Colours”, from his first album, after the “Billie Jean” guitar break, YP goes into a prog-ish guitar section that gets weirdly close to the theme from Space Ghost. He’s running up and down the stage, freed from the desk. It’s a bravura moment of performance, at once silly and skilled, the old Peach playfulness.

On the next track it becomes evident that, while the first album was instrument and rhythm based, the new material leans toward electronic harmonic lifting and ebbing as it’s source of motion. Peach is really using his voice on this stuff, sometimes through pedals, sometimes clean. He sings on most of the songs now, as opposed to before where he was mostly concerned with the instruments, it seems working electronically has freed him up to craft songs beyond improv type experimentation. The rhythm here is rumbling underneath, a strobey beat with glitch overlaying lyrics that echo some kind of nascent Pink Floyd, building up with an edge of threat.

For his last track he unleashes a dancefloor banger, a clean almost post-dubstep-airpunch-inducer, pinned down by a solvent hit of panning echoes. Even though it sounds nothing like them, for some reason it reminds me of The KLF. There is something more searching about the new material. It’s an auraljourney, but with little bits you can dance to. Stepping up the vocal elements of the songs, as well as constraining himself to a desk flattens parts of the set, making some of the songs feel samey, but heading off in a new direction, armed only with his pop hooks and epic soundscapes, requires a new learning curve.

Learning Curve - Halloween at Assembly

You can download Part 1 of Singularity HERE

*All images © Jacques Snow

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