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Pterodactyl - Pterodactyl

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Artist: Pterodactyl

Album: Pterodactyl

Label: Brah

Review date: Mar. 30, 2007

Pterodactyl are a clangy and asymmetric guitar band, but unlike so many of their peers, their sound doesn't spring from the post-punk pioneers of clatter. In fact, it's hard to imagine them hitting on their sound before the age of laptop loop collages. These guys are tight, but it's not stop-on-a-dime tight, and it's not suddenly-loud-suddenly-soft tight. Their asymmetry comes from how they seem to cut riffs from longer riffs, sampled a fraction short of the logical resolution, and repeated, repeated, repeated. They'll hang on a single tone and let it pulse around the drumbeat, mechanical but not quite mathematical. Played by hand, it's informed by our thoroughly cut and pasted musical landscape.

There's discipline involved with keeping an unintuitive lick wrapped taut, but it's not the sort of discipline you get from musical showboating. Even though each element is simple, each player is contributing to a larger pattern. They're all in the rhythm section. The resulting sound is knotted up, and it's tangible that they get a kick out of holding it all together. And by backing off on dexterity, it leaves room for some unexpected vocal harmonizing. You wouldn't mistake the harmonies for the Beach Boys, but given the overall approach, it sounds rather sunny.

A few of the songs are rave-ups, strangled and spazzy, moving this debut record along. However, the mid-tempo tracks are where Pterodactyl shine brightest. "Astros" kicks off with a churning trio of notes that keep bouncing off a huge power chord. Those parts get subsumed by harmonizing, and by the middle of the song it has built into something positively poppy. You'd expect a refrain to develop, but all falls back to that first power chord. The song goes on for its last half hammering that block of noise. And that block of noise is every bit as involving as the detail that preceded it.

It's hard to wring new sounds from overdriven strings. Pterodactyl do a good job of making them at least a bit unfamiliar. Between the clipped riffing, they isolate artifacts of amplification and make it centerpiece to their songs. There are a lot of reedy tones, sounds that are only nominally guitarish. "Blue Jay" finds them fiddling with volume knobs, resulting in something like a clarinet. "Three Succeed" pushes the same horn-like tones 'til they scorch. Some tracks are noise fragments, wobbly foreign squeals served up quick. But the most disorienting thing about Pterodactyl is hearing this sort of experimentation served up without angst.

By Ben Donnelly

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