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Picastro — You (2014)

Picastro — You (17 February, 2014)

CAN Flag                        Picastro — You
♣   A mysterious and enigmatic figure — supposedly raised in a deaf family, being genetically deaf herself, and having learned to sign as her first language — Picastro front-woman Liz Hysen quickly gained notoriety for her soulfully emotive vocals and her band's lushly atmospheric mediations.
♣   The lyrics often slip into a second person perspective, echoing the suggestion the title makes this these songs are directed to the listener. Picastro is conducting a conversation directly with you, sharing experiences and offering lessons learned as you engage with the music. In this vein, the album ends with a hopeful message in the last song: “so you lost, but you still survived.” The sadness expressed throughout the album doesn’t have to be an entrenched state. You made it through, found some release, and now it’s time to build some happiness again.
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Album release: 17 February, 2014
Record Label: Function
Duration:     33:51
Tracks:
01 Mountain Relief     2:28
02 Two Women     4:10
03 Endlessly     3:03
04 Vampires     2:17
05 That's It     3:10
06 Temur     3:12
07 Judas Claim     2:47
08 State Man     2:23
09 Baron in the Trees     7:28
10 February     2:53
Personnel:
♣  guitarist/vocalist Liz Hysen,
♣  cellist Nick Storring,
♣  drummer Brandon Valdivia.
◊   Past members included Evan Clarke, Rachel McBride, Owen Pallett, Stephanie Vittas, Kurt Newman, Alex McLeod and Zak Hanna.
Product Description:
◊   Function Records are delighted to announce details on the new album from Toronto s Picastro. Set for release on 17th February 2014, "You" is the follow up to 2010's 'Become Secret'. Picastro began in Toronto in 1998 when the Toronto music scene was predominately catering to loud rock bands with Liz Hysen, Stephanie Vittas and Kurt Newman. Since then, the band has continued in many forms with its current band members consisting of Liz Hysen, Brandon Valdivia and Nick Storring. Commanding influences as varied as gypsy field recordings, Greek rembetika, Russian folksongs, Faces, and Black Sabbath, Toronto's Picastro craft starkly discordant soundscapes where murmured vocals cascade alongside a rich panorama of dissonance and string-laden dynamics. The band have toured extensively over the past 10 years alongside the likes of Scout Niblett, Nadja, Cerberus Shoal, Xiu Xiu, Devendra Banhart, Marissa Nadler, Dwayne Sodahberk, Broken Social Scene and many other wonderful artists across North America and Europe as well as appearing on BBC radio and the influential WFMU. Picastro has also played a number of festivals including SXSW (Austin), CMJ (NYC), Incubate (Netherlands), Rhaaa Lovely (Belgium), edno Uho (Croatia), Tanned Tin (Spain), Suoni Per il Popolo (Montreal) and NXNE (Toronto). // www.picastro.wordpress.com // Reviews: Rock A Rolla, Nme, Classic Rock, Big Cheese Magazine, Artrocker, Diy Magazine , Mojo, Q , Uncut, The Fly ,Loud & Quiet, Crack Magazine, NARC, No Cigar Mag, Q, Rhubarb Bomb, The Skinny, AAA, Bearded Mag, Drowned In Sound, Echoes And Dust, God Is In The TV, Quietus, Subbaculture, The 405, Line Of Best Fit //
REVIEW
By Ian Mathers 17 March 2014;  Score: 9
◊   The prevailing wisdom about Toronto’s Picastro (to the extent that there is one) seems to be that they’re ‘spooky’. It’s an understandable take: Liz Hysen is comfortable taking her sombre-hued voice from melodic to atonal whenever the music calls for it; the lyrical content certainly doesn’t shy away from the dimmer end of things (in either subject matter or its view of human nature); and the band has described its own sound as “quiet and aggressive”, not a combination many people find comforting.
◊   The key to understanding why You is so wonderful lies not just in the possible spookiness, but the combination of it with something else Hysen’s said about Picastro: “It’s music that is meant for human connection and empathy. I don’t think it’s scary, not sure what that says about me but at the very least if it has helped you out in some way, then I am happy.”
◊   In a year where the bleak-as-hell True Detective is a huge pop culture sensation, maybe it should be more surprising that more listeners don’t warm to bands making the kind of dark, emotionally complex music that Picastro always has, but we’ve always tended to accept more nuance and depth from male TV antiheroes than we do from female-fronted bands. We tend to assume that “human connection and empathy” can only be found in the positive, but just as our lives aren’t unmitigated sweetness and light neither are the things we draw support from. You isn’t Picastro lightening up — “State Man’s” justifiably self-loathing narrator is set to supple folk verses and droning cello cello refrains, and the buzzing “Vampires” sounds a bit like past collaborators Espers having a nightmare — but that’s far from the only tone here. The record begins with Hysen and Great Lake Swimmers’ Tony Dekker singing “I turned a mountain into a relief / I shoot the harm out of everything” in unison, and not only is it beautiful it’s comforting. The language is just opaque enough you can put any number of spins on what they’re actually singing, but the emotional timbre of their voices, one of weary protectiveness, is clear and warm.
◊   While Picastro’s last solo full length, 2009’s excellent, stark Become Secret, was an almost-solo album for Hysen, here long-running band members Brandon Valdivia and Nick Storring (on drums and cello respectively) are much more prominent, and many of the songs are fleshed out with more guitars, electronics, and guests this time. The whole record is very carefully balanced; “Judas Claim”, a spectral duet with the pleasantly creaky-voiced Alex Lukashevsky, flows naturally out of the heavier, howling coda of “Temur”, and the gorgeous, intertwining strings at the end “Two Women” (which slightly resemble early Horse Feathers) perfectly set up the wryly confident “Endlessly” (“when it’s time for me to go, I’ll let you know”). Nobody’s going to mistake the music here for “Hey Jude” or “Shiny Happy People”, but it’s an odd kind of confusion to think something must necessarily be hostile or off-putting just because it’s dark, or even just even-keeled. These songs are also melodic, structurally interesting, and consistently rewarding, whether or not you find them spooky.
◊   You also has one of the strongest ends of any Picastro records, with Valdivia’s kalimba anchoring the sprawling narrative of the carefully wrought “Baron in the Trees” to its steady pulse as voice, cello, and synthesizer warp above it and then Hysen’s sister Angela singing about “the burden of sound” on the brief, spellbinding “February” before the record unravels with a brief spell of wordless keening. It’s a bit unearthly; you could find it weird and scary. But it’s as beautiful as the rest of Picastro’s work, and if you approach their music in the right spirit, you could just as easily find it welcoming. (http://www.popmatters.com/)


REVIEW
BY ALAN DAVEY, 7 FEBRUARY 2014;  Score: 8/10
◊   Since 2002’s Red Your Blues, Toronto’s Picastro have developed a line in guitar and cello driven shoegaze-with-menace music, alternately alluring and impressionistically disturbing in sound and subject matter. Vocalist and guitarist Liz Hysen is joined by cellist Nick Storring and drummer Brandon Valdivia to form the current line up. For You, their fifth album they also call on the talents of Tony Dekker, Alex Lukashevsky, Caleb Mulkerin, Colleen Kinsella and Angela Hysen to add to the core band.
◊   The result is a rich and atmospheric mix of spookiness and disorientation, with gentle sounding cello and guitar defined melodies twisting, deforming and fuzzily distorting as vocals swirl around the sound and fuse into the overall atmosphere created by the music. The natural acoustic sounds are augmented by synthesizer and electric guitar to add a touch of noise to the underlying gothic pastoral of the music. ◊   There’s beauty here, but an edginess too.
◊   Take the opener “Mountain Relief”. It begins briefly with a lovely cello tune underpinned by guitar that in two beats turns into a threatening pulse. Tony Dekker’s vocals — which in a solo or Great lake Swimmers’ setting normally celebrate and engage with nature, are filled with a suggestive edginess — “I turned a mountain into a relief/ I shoot the harm out of everything…” Behind him instruments distort and the beat becomes relentless, the cello twisting into a siren by the end of the song. It’s a disturbing and beautiful sound. Horror folk, with a 50s B-movie graininess in the images it paints, it sets the tone for the album as a whole.
◊   “Two Women” has cello, guitar and flute setting a new swirling tone in which disembodied lyrical voices speak to each other with a rhyme like chorus “I can’t go there on my own” — on its own a scary soundworld, filmic in its suggestion.
◊   Common themes are darkness, lost voices, a threat in the surroundings suggested by the sound and sketched in the lyrics. Sometimes the percussive rhythm suggests the Velvet Underground (“Vampires”) but the sound is uniquely pastoral — the use of the cello is distinctive. Most of the songs appear to have a woman’s voice but “State Man” has an ambiguously sexed vocal from a male perspective (“I’m no fool/ I am a coffin….”). The album ends as it begins with a male voice on “February” — the melody established by minor key guitar joined eventually by cello and wraith like vocals that see out the album.
◊   This is an album of hard-staring shoegaze, of richness and discomfort mixed, drawing you into a strange and beautiful otherworld, and ends up being compelling in the luminescent moonlit beauty that emerges from the introspective sound. (http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/
Also:
By Larry Day | 12 February 2014 | Rating: 8/10
♦   http://www.thefourohfive.com/review/article/picastro-you
By Jordan Mainzer | posted on 7 Feb 2014 | Rating: ****
♦   http://www.musicomh.com/reviews/albums/picastro
By  Paul Chapinal | Score: ***
♦   http://www.music-news.com/showreview.asp?nReviewID=10052
By Elena Gritzan | Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)
♦   http://grayowlpoint.com/2014/03/14/review-you-picastro/
INTERVIEW
♦   http://www.blogto.com/music/2008/09/call_response_picastro/
_______________________________________________________________
Discography:
♦   Red Your Blues (2002)
♦   Metal Cares (2005)
♦   Whore Luck (2007)
♦   Become Secret (2009) (vinyl)
♦   Become Secret (2010) (CD)
♦   Fool, redeemer (2011) split with Nadja released on Alien8
♦   You (2014)
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Picastro — You (2014)

 

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