Soft HellOctober 26, 2018 Mexican Summer
Soft Hell, Pill’s second full-length album for Mexican Summer, is a raucous, splintering dispatch from New York City, animated by the madcap ingenuity of a foursome finding a palpable sense of joy and play in expressions of caustic, black humor. Like the contradiction of the album title, which references our acceptance of everyday miseries, it’s a slew of dichotomies, a frenzied cutup. It’s bleeding saxophone and lustrous feedback sounding somehow pastoral, and winking hooks subtly infused with venom.
The expansive, charred psychedelia of Pill’s early sound — textured by homemade, circuit-bent instruments and custom effects by guitarist Jon Campolo’s brother Nick — has morphed into something more compact and mischievous but no less evocative. It’s also the most hook-laden, melodic statement in the band’s catalog to date.
Pill resent complacency, whether in political or creative senses. “For me this band’s about being provocative with sound,” said saxophonist Benjamin Jaffe. Drummer Andrew Spaulding said the album title, Soft Hell, critiques the “work-to-play” cliché of New York life, with its breakneck, competitive pursuit of comfort. Torres added that it evokes sexual bondage, describing Soft Hell as a reference to the cyclical monotony of humans harming one another.
The title’s punchy syllables also connect to the overall album theme of headline culture, wherein information is rapidly stripped of context and disseminated like fleeting propaganda. But they’re not interested in “soapbox, manifesto music,” emphasized Spaulding. “Calling this political music in 2018 is basically redundant.”
Soft Hell, like its Mexican Summer predecessor Convenience, carries forward a free-associative ensemble feel, with the players finding room for intuitive subtleties and melodic interplay even in the most skeletally spare compositions. They play post-punk, maybe no wave, mostly insofar as the terms are far-reaching creative passports.
|2 Dark Glass|
|5 Sin Compromiso|
|6 Soft Hell|
|7 Softer Side|
|8 Double Think|
|11 Power Abuser|