Efrim Manuel Menuck Pissing Stars

Efrim Manuel Menuck Pissing Stars
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Whether it's his wailing, screwdriver-induced guitar tone buoying up through a crescendo in Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or his arrestingly naked vocal performances in Thee Silver Mt Zion, Efrim Menuck is a conjuror of distinct sounds. Although these projects were successful as collectives, Menuck's presence is palpable to differing degrees in both of them, and his contributions to innovative Canadian rock music cannot be understated. His decision to record under his own name for 2011's Plays High Gospel was, in some ways, a continuation of the more open and personable approach that the Silver Mt Zion project had been solidifying over their last few albums.
 
Almost seven years later, Menuck has returned with another collection of nebulous compositions that carry a much more foreboding atmosphere than the hymnal evocations of his prior record. Although he cites the brief relationship between Saudi aristocrat Mohammed Khashoggi and American television personality Mary Hart as the inspiration for Pissing Stars, this narrative is not immediately obvious in the music. These songs are built around dense drones, warped guitar loops, and scatterings of noise that are simultaneously enticing and intimidating.
 
Even on what is quite explicitly a solo record, Menuck's voice avoids monopolizing the spotlight. His singing is heavily processed, for the most part, and when his lyrics are intelligible, they are thematic and oblique. A GY!BE-like vocal sample crops up on the grim interlude "Kills v. Lies" and his son provides the culminating refrain on opening track.
 
"A Lamb in the Land of Payday Loans" is the closest Menuck gets to the sound of High Gospel. It features a skipping drum machine, blurry vocal layers, and a gorgeous billowing sheet of guitar fuzz that makes for the warmest four minutes on the record. The one track that makes direct reference to Khashoggi and Hart, on the other hand, is entirely instrumental, contrasting choral pads and swooping effects with high-frequency electronics.
 
Menuck's proclivity for splashes of carefully sculpted melody can still be heard in the cascading synthesizers of "The State and Its Love and Genocide," as well as the familiar major chord progression that anchors the title track, but overall, Pissing Stars plays like a text that invites rereading and re-deciphering. It is intimate and alienating; friendly and mysterious; and, most importantly, a whole lot of eerie fun for any listener interested in experimental music. (Constellation)