I spend so much of my time looking for the strange and the peculiar that sometimes I forget what rock and roll sounds like. Just old-school, well-done rock and roll executed to the acme of its ability. Thank God PuraPharm is around to remind me.
The band is finally releasing their debut, self-titled EP, and man it is a freakin' doozey. Their sound just has what can only be described as stank. Down and dirty stank that would be the perfect soundtrack to sex or murder, take your pick. Tessa Cole's voice is somewhere between a Joplin wail and the siren call of Poe, all laid over this pounding, slow, methodical groove that just can't be beat.
It opens strong with "Medicine Girl," and the dual of Kole and Davis Jumper's guitars is magic. It's a thick recording that bowls you over so hard that it's easy to miss the intricacies. The bass of Paul Adams and Niki Sims-Gimore's saxophone are almost lost to the ear until you learn to pick them out of the effect-heavy treble wail. You feel them more than you hear them, but it's strong enough to travel up and down your spine.
Those effects are what helps keep PuraPharm from feeling like just a love letter to late '60s rock. They use them to tie their music into modern times much like Benjamin Wesley does, though not quite so esoteric or atmospherically. Something like "Sleep in the Water" feels almost like an old Cure track, albeit if Siouxsie Sioux had guest-starred on vox. It's another track that lets Jumper dance his guitar all over the place, losing his more typical progressive approach to dabble in Mississippi blues.
PuraPharm is just a really solid release. I don't think I've heard such a thematically cohesive and yet playfully diverse short collection of songs since The Clouds are Ghosts' Harbinger. There's just enough of each other track to guide you along with no jarring, but they still form definitive movements that won't let you sit still.
Of all the offerings "100% Pure" is the fine standout. Admittedly, it's long. Even for a band that rarely clocks a tune in under the four-minute mark it's a little open and noodly. Still, it's remarkable how someone like Kole can fill that space with just a few lyrics. She never sounds rushed or desperate, but takes each space as her due and lets it go to fall back into the hurricane of her bandmates' parts. It takes a lot of confidence to do that.
The only misstep is that their closer, "I'll Make the Wind Blow," is out of place. Oh it's a great song, don't get me wrong, but it would have been better off as the intro before "100% Pure" so that groove could have slowly played it out. "Wind Blow" is a call-to-action kind of song, something that would work perfectly as an angry young professional wrestler's entrance theme rather than the final punctuation mark on an EP of more epic material.
Regardless PuraPharm has set themselves up as a studio act to be reckoned with here. It's definitely a work of magic.
PuraPharm releases their EP tonight at Warehouse Live with Jealous Creatures, Casual Strangers and Glass the Sky. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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