Impeccably rendered retro psych-pop charms from the trio of Wednesday Knudsen, Clark Griffin and Rob Smith, with tweeness kept at bay by an unwavering commitment to lo-fi recording. The Bower’s eight songs hit channel a distinctively British brand of fungal psychedelia (although Piegons aren’t British), combining this with a pared-down rock minimalism. So fuzzed guitars jostle with wistful flutes while deadpan vocals follow desire lines trodden by desultory percussion. It’s the kind of thing you could imagine Nick Drake producing if he was bonding with Lou Reed over a fistful of Mandrax while on a gap year at Syracuse Uni.
Overall, listening to The Bower evokes long, autumnal afternoons hunkering down with a cup of tea and a spliff in a cosy sitting room somewhere, things slowly going a bit blurred round the edges as the twilight creeps in. The template is set from the off, with the Reynardine-referencing Foxglove and the so-nonchalant-its-falling-apart Underneath The Maple Tree. It’s almost too cosy at times, lacking the chemical edge that gave genuine astral travellers like The Incredible String Band an indefinable sense of threat, that feeling of something hostile just at edge of your vision that could send you hurtling into an abyss of hysteria. Instead it’s like a worn, much-loved patchwork blanket to keep the first hints of winter chill at bay.
There’s a charming left turn at around the halfway mark, with the Belle & Sebastian-style piano kitsch of Not A Party, but the key element that helps Pigeons retain a sense of spacey disassociation throughout The Bower is Wednesday Knudsen’s affectless vocals, reminiscent of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadler or Broadcast’s Trish Keenan. (Occasionally it feels as if Pigeons have taken Keenan’s 2011 Mind Bending Motorway Mix as their Ur-text for this record). The wide-eyed cosmic vibes of Knudsen’s delivery take Pigeon away from those dusty paths of traditional song that folk rock bands are often drawn down, instead steering the trio into a trippier, polka dot universe that emphasises the mantra-like qualities of songs like Summer For Mary Anne.
In reality, Pigeons don’t attempt to break rock music down into its constituent minerals and build something new from the rubble like the great underground rock innovators – Lou and John, Viv and Ari, Thurston and Kim, etc – that’s ok. Everyone needs to mellow out sometimes. Right?
Get The Bower here.