Shirley & The Pyramids
Pure Pain

by Jim Di Gioia

August 1, 2018

Pure Pain provides constant pleasure as it unfurls through its many phases.


Before their much-acclaimed album Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space, UK drone-rockers Spiritualized released an oft-forgotten-but-beloved-by-me record called Pure Phase. To this day, Spiritualized’s second full-length feels free from expectations, open to letting energy and ideas guide the music wherever it wants to go. I get a similar sense of freedom and expansiveness on another sophomore record with “pure” in its title: Pure Pain from Saskatoon’s Shirley & The Pyramids.

Pure Pain is thick with feedback and drone, bleeding out at the tail-end of one song and pooling at the start of the next. But rather than drown sole-member/player Aron Zacharias’s songwriting, Shirley & The Pyramids’s R&B infused melodies sound like their levitating on a cloud of energy created from all that drone. Stylistically, Zacharias shifts gears from track to track: the persistent, sinister grind of “Western Star” slips seamlessly into the title track’s airy indie-pop groove; the shimmering shoegaze pop of “More Than the Sun” settles into the slow-rolling guitar wash of “Be Free (Slow)” like a lumbering thunderstorm tracking across the night sky.

To his credit, Aron Zacharias wrenches new life from kosmische’s musical conceits. Far from being a one-note drone record, Pure Pain feels like a journey as the Sturm und Drang of early track “One Life” gives way to the more atmospheric textures of later tracks “No Future” and closer “Pyramodal Soul”. Chock-full of an understated songwriting acumen, Pure Pain provides constant pleasure as it unfurls through its many phases.

Jim Di Gioia

Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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