Review Summary: Falling up the stairs, backwards
The surrealness-ness of All Fiction
. It (the surreality) penetrates the entirety of Pile’s 9th outing, sewn generously throughout its various trappings and turbulence; and, frankly, I’ve had the hardest time attempting to decipher or appraise it. These vaguely
noise compositions do not conform
. That (I suspect) may be a guised, clumsy way of me saying that they are just not very good - I’m not sure, I haven't decided - yet I sense there’s a nugget of gold buried beneath these discordant indie tunes that’s worth sifting through the bathwater to find.
Desperate, moody “Gardening Hours” can’t decide what time of day it is. It reveals shimmers of sunshine, sparingly, swiftly slamming shutters (erm) shut in favour of grunge-adjacent nocturnal clunking and deadness. It then opens up, again, with some very lovely and also eerie crooning a la “Link Arms”, which oh no
then becomes weary and watchful again, the sinister, angular thematics ratcheting up and up and up and --
-- it’s all in the structure, I think; nothing is built the way you’d expect. A bridge unfolds into a bridge into a bridge w/o chorus or climax or substance(?). Again, I’m still trying to figure that part out. I guess whether this structureless-ness is a good or a bad thing is at the mercy of the listener’s relative perspective and headspace, as opposed to within Pile’s control (would you like to wander blindly, lost and wheezing and fucked
, or not?). Wait. Drums!! YES!!! That’s what’s missing from “Blood”, and others; a minimalist flair plucked, no doubt, from their (less-than-successful) ambient excursion of 2021. It certainly presents as vague and weightless and jarring within --
-- All Fiction
, but --
-- really, thinking about it, I (personally) prefer --
-- “Loops”! And “Forgetting”! And “Nude With a Suitcase”! With these cuts, there’s at least a foundation and an intent and a plan
. Let me not overstate the scale of the problem: thoughtfulness and songwriting are not absent from All Fiction's
wishy-wash-ier cuts - it’d be arrogant and dumb-dumb to suggest otherwise, particularly given how lovely
the aforementioned “Blood” (and “It Comes Closer”) can be when all the strings come undone. The point I'm making, rather, is that there’s just more to sink your teeth into when all the disparate, volatile components that make up Pile’s most ambitious and mature project coalesce as one; when they actually feel choreographed, rather than crackling and popping at odd intervals w/o a bigger picture in sight (giving me jittery ‘car backfire’ vibes). Through these disorganized antics, however, a purer sense of confusion is achieved. You get this brilliant pang of unease when “Poisons” kicks the shitting door down that, I suspect, wouldn’t be there if the remainder of the record were more predictable. The same, kinda, can be said of closer “Neon Gray”, who’s serenity feels all the more surprising and joyous for the freeform cacophony before it. The lyrics are cryptic and ethereal, also (it works). But did we really have to sacrifice so much meaty substance in the process? There’s nothing to grab onto.
What I still adore about Pile, though, is that I do not (and can never) know who they are. Their relentless, reckless drive for NEW
is cool, as is the way it severs any sense of responsibility for any one of their projects to follow a particular blueprint and, with it, any sense of expectation (positive or negative) on the part of you
(as the listener). There’s very little of fan favourite Dripping
left within 2023 Pile, and less still of 2009’s Jerk Routine
. With this removal of history and borders, room for spontaneity and discovery have been cleared out and left open, which is good. Praise for that creative spark aside, erm, I’m not sure it has done enough to turn All Fiction
into the ugly masterpiece that it constantly threatens to become. Overinflated and squealing: it is not more than the sum of its parts. One hundred thousand good ideas, it turns out, are not enough to make an album.