Hey, do you hate the basic and generic ways that saxophone gets used in music these days? We do too, remember? We hate it so much that we wrote an entire (long) post about it! Now that we’re on the same page as far as our mutual hatred for generic saxophone goes, it’s time to talk about a non-generic counterexample, an album which utilizes the instrument extremely well to amplify and enrich its sound. This album was released just this month, by a Spanish band called Pyramidal. Like plenty other bands from Spain (like Exxasens or blog darlings Toundra, to name just two examples), Pyramidal make music which draws heavily on space rock, post-rock, krautrock, and psychedelic music to generate a heavy mix of far-flung journeys, plenty of fuzz, and dominant groove.
The saxophone is baked right in from the beginning, literally; “Visions of an Astral Journey”, the opening track, uses saxophone as another instrument performing riffs, relying on a very dirty and harsh tone to stake its ground among the other instruments. You won’t hear clean breaks here with the saxophone used like a guitar to solo. Instead, the instrument is part and parcel of what’s going on, adding a depth to the overall product. The next track, “Creatures of the Ancient World” uses the saxophone near its end, as a method to break things up and usher in the outro. It’s a different role for it to play than on the opening track and it does it just as well, announcing itself after a longer period of silence, relying deeply on other sonic traits of the saxophone (especially its smooth timbre, here set against the fuzziness of the crashing guitar and cymbals) to create a different kind of dynamic.
Of course, the saxophone is not the only instrument of merit on this album. The guitars are perhaps the most varied tool used, manifesting themselves in many different forms. Sometimes, like on the trippy opening of “Unconscious Oscillations”, the third track, they weave a heady and incandescent haze of psychedelic sounds. Layering themselves on top of each other, probably utilizing several loops, the guitars create another world for us to fall into while the bass and the saxophone play more melodic parts. In other places, like on the aforementioned “Creatures of the Ancient World”, they play a more stoner rock kind of role, chugging out riff after riff, garnishing them with plenty of leads, creating the momentum of the track and pushing it forward.
You might have picked up from the description above that the bass plays something much more than just a supporting role. This is also true for the drums, the two roles coalescing into a powerful and expressive groove section. This section, while indeed driving forward most of the tracks in a backing capacity, is also prone to flights of fancy, chasing after its own melodies, rhythms, and sounds. This is a good time to point out the obvious: many of these sounds and rhythms are influenced by Mediterranean flavors, as a lot of the psychedelic music made in Spain seems to be. This fact has obvious historical roots (hint: Alicante, which the band is from, is on the northern edge of Andalusia) but Pyramidal utilize these influences better than most bands; check out “Digital Madness”, which even features vocals, to get a taste of that, as the groove section walks through several different iterations of this characteristic sound.
At the end of the day, all of this comes together to make an excellent psychedelic album with something for everyone and then some. It has grooves and weird moments, which you might expect from an album of its genre, but it also dishes up some stuff, in the form of those unique saxophone parts, a violin guest spot, and the curious nature of the groove section, that you weren’t expecting. The end result is an (mostly) instrumental album with many layers, allowing you to listen as deep or as shallow as you’d like. All levels have their charm but those that dive in are sure to be rewarded with some truly excellent, and intricate, music.
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Pyramidal’s self-titled album was released on April 15th. You can head on over to their Bandcamp page above to get it!