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Maserati - Pyramid of the Sun

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Artist: Maserati

Album: Pyramid of the Sun

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Nov. 9, 2010

Every time I’m about to mourn Maserati, in the wake of the completely untimely death of drummer Jerry Fuchs a year ago this week, it occurs to me that what I’m mourning is only this incarnation of Maserati: Fuchs came on board a couple of albums in, and chances are good that he’ll be succeeded by someone new, someone undaunted by high expectations. (For the moment it looks like it’s A. E. Paterra of Zombi and Majeure.)

Still, if ever there was an incarnation worth mourning. Fuchs wasn’t the only good thing about this Maserati, but he brought a needed jolt of momentum to a band that had been making careful, uninspired post-rock like The Language of Cities, helped it find and project its ideal voice. On 2007’s Inventions for the New Season, and then on last year’s split LP with Zombi, the careful pattern-repeating interplay of the guitars came alive over his tirelessly precise metronomic clatter, and the whole enterprise just kind of made sense. The best that can be said about that Maserati, I think, is that it managed to excel at something nobody else was quite doing: that in a musical idiom filled to capacity with bands that look identical on paper, it made something basically unique and, at its best, essential.

Pyramid of the Sun, drawn from the band’s last recordings with Fuchs and pulled together with some outside help, isn’t essential, but it gets better and better the more it sinks in. It falls somewhere between tribute to Fuchs and attempt to move on to the future, to keep evolving the band’s teutonically slinky highway jams. The most dynamic numbers, “Oaxaca” and “They’ll No More Suffer From Thirst,” along with its steel-bellied companion piece “They’ll No More Suffer From Hunger,” recall the muscular excitement of Inventions, of how coolly and confidently the right elements gravitated toward each other. But they’re onto something new, too; the latter two in particular thanks to some housey burbling, courtesy of Steve Moore from Zombi, that sounds as right here as it would in a deadmau5 set.

Other parts feel less lean, less fully conceived — not unfinished, exactly, but somehow more performance than purpose. The title track is exhilarating but directionless; “We’ve Got The System To Fight The System” is directionless but exhilarating. They’re either arch-elegant or going somewhere fast, but not both. They feel stuck, as though resisting the album’s overall momentum. Hard to blame them, maybe.

The anomaly is the closer, “Bye M’Friend, Goodbye,” the last song the band wrote with Fuchs. It isn’t better than the best of Inventions, but it quickly ditches Pyramid‘s ominous, hypnotic vibe in favor of a rough, joyous rocker. As a reminder of what Maserati was in the recent past, it’s bittersweet and powerful, but it also casts into relief what Maserati is on track to sound like in the near future. As a statement of intent from that band, Pyramid is promising in a shaky kind of way: it’s clear that there’s still creative magic to go around, but also that the old chemistry is going to be a tough one to reorient.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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