“Rolling along like a middle child, happy as we had been in a while, forgot about you, myself too,” sings Tim Midyett in “Null Set,” sounding calm and centered in the space carved out for him. He sings in the midst of crashing guitar chords, blister-y bass, monstrous drum beats and firewalls of feedback, a typical maelstrom for this band formed in the wake of Silkworm drummer Michael Dalquist’s tragic death. This third full-length allows no let-up in the bludgeoning dissonance, the melancholic aggression that has characterized Bottomless Pit from the beginning, and yet it also has an edge of triumph to it, a brutal clarity that celebrates as much as it mourns.
Shade Perennial is the first Bottomless Pit album recorded with Steve Albini, and there is a noticeable sharpening and separation in its sound. The album starts in coiled quietness, the bare resonance of Midyett’s baritone guitar nudging upward, note by note, then running into an electrified zap of Cohen’s instrument. “Fleece,” the opening cut, grows denser as it goes, dual guitars, bass and drums going at one another, butting heads, zigging and zagging into one another with primal, confrontational force. Yet even in the thickest parts of the song, the individual parts jump out. You can hear the baritone guitar and guitar worrying at one another, because you can hear them both quite clearly, with an edge of white space around both to italicize them. That negative space turns into an integral part of the sound – the intervals between snare shots, the silences at the end of lyric phrases – is as palpable and heavy, in its own way, as the masses of distorted guitar.
In an interview with New City, Midyett seemed to dismiss any notion of getting beyond Dalquist’s death, the defining event that birthed and continues to shape Bottomless Pit’s output. “The only reason Bottomless Pit exists is because Michael died,” he told Kenneth Preski in his first interview since the tragedy. Yet with Shade Perennial, I hear Cohen and Midyett coming to terms with their loss, learning to live with it and maybe even working around it a little bit.
“Horse Trading,” the best and most explosive of these songs, is, perhaps, about making deals with what life hands you. It is both crushingly heavy and full of air. Guitars burst like flamethrowers, cymbals crash like sudden flares of lightening. Still there is a fair amount of silence embedded in the interstices, which seems appropriate in a band formed around and because of the missing. And surprise, this time, the mayhem sounds more like celebration than rage. Bottomless Pit may always have a hole in it where Dalquist should have been, but it sounds like the rest of the band is learning to live with the gap, even turn it into something essential. Says Midyett, “I never wanted to be free/makes no sense at all/my bondage feels so good to me/without it I would fall.”
DOWNLOAD: “Horse Trading” “Null Set”