Several years ago I reviewed a local gig containing a set by Manchester-based post-Hardcore band Knifecrimes, and enjoyed a chat with their fresh-faced East Anglian guitarist. These days Joe Clayton still classes Manchester as home but is now a sought-after producer and mastermind of the multi-faceted, enigmatic Pijn, whose first album proper Loss (Holy Roar) is a pulsing ball of creativity.
Opener ‘Denial’ is a bass-heavy rumble through a dramatic cinemascape, squealing fiddles occasionally doing time with sparse guitar wails and squalls of noise. A post-Rock mid-section is sensitively portrayed before sonic swells return bearing Eastern influences. The ensuing ‘Detach’ is a tender paean to loss, a brittle piano easing the way for soft intonations and mournful cello, and displays at once the staggering versatility the band possess . This is further proved with a sudden lurch into the pounding rhythm of ‘Distress’; guitars howling and chiming against the gradual increase of noise, the pace growing madly and sandwiching a drop into tense reflection. ‘Blanch’ sees another swing toward more subtle nuances, a quaint yet dark and emotional trip through throbbing, jangling Ambient structures with more layers than one of Shrek’s onions.
‘Blush’ is an Amenra-esque brooding hulk, beginning with a dreamlike shimmer and gently strummed guitar before exploding into a titanic bass and drum-led murk, with squalling guitar chilling the atmosphere. Lush lead guitar embellishes the underbelly as the track ebbs and flows deliciously with anger, pain and shyness all sharing the red face. The epic ‘Unspoken’, all nineteen minutes of it, is another slow-burner: the soft yet sinister outset gradually building in volume and tension, the rare vocal spat forth with venom and anguish. Intersects of violin and piano occasionally enliven the sound and but for these ingredients the track would seem flabby and overlong.
It’s a disease that affects the final three tracks. ‘Squalor’ is a wistful meander through acoustic and Country-style guitars, with even the bursts of fire being slow and melodic: and whilst the closing ‘Squander’ picks up the pace and emotion, with driving rhythms and a Post-black urgency accompanying heartbreaking violins, it too is often ponderous and a little overblown. It’s a telling end to an album steeped in glorious invention and no little beauty and bluster, but which seems to run out of steam. Loss contains much promise, however, and it will be interesting to see how Pijn progress from here.