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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.

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