Whether it’s the Ramones revving Phil Spector’s teen pop to blitzkrieg velocity, the Jesus & Mary Chain smothering Beach Boy melodies in Velvet Underground feedback, or Outkast mashing up hip-hop with the Pixies and Prince, most musical breakthroughs aren’t inventions so much as radical reconfigurations. Case in point: the Minneapolis-based electro-punk quartet Avenpitch. The group’s third LP CAST OFF (Dance School Records) takes everything that was catchy and danceable about New Order, Happy Mondays, and Pop Will Eat Itself; then chops it up, speeds it up and cranks it up into howling, yet tuneful, 3-minute blasts of digital distortion.
Those who haven’t heard Avenpitch before will likely be jolted by the raw energy of their sound, while returning fans will appreciate refined songwriting skills and the musical cyborg interplay evident throughout the album. The opening track “Pregnant Pause” sets the parameters with ringleader Todd Millenacker’s shouted melodies set against relentless beats and layered guitar noise. “Maybe I Was Wrong” employs the same elements to drive home a heartbroken chorus, while “Sweet Summertime” reshapes them into partly-sunny punk-pop. Later tracks cruise through Krautrock and metal territory until the final track, “Shadows of Giants” crashes headlong into a wall of heavily processed garage band noise.
CAST OFF is the band’s third record with the lineup of guitarist Darren Siaw, drummer Paul Hudalla, and keyboardist Sarah France backing singer/multi-instrumentalist/studio mastermind Todd Millenacker. While gas prices and life in general kept Avenpitch on a shorter touring leash in 2008 than in previous years, the quartet has retained their edge and their cult following with a busy Midwestern touring schedule and vigorous online promotion. CAST OFF will see the band continuing to raise their underground profile, with the advance MP3s already receiving support from podcasts and college radio, and a few tracks licensed to indie video games such as Rock Tour Tycoon (Game Mill Entertainment) and Donk: Samurai Duck! (Cryptic Allusion). The band also assures fans in other parts of the country that CAST OFF will be supported by several proper tours throughout 2009.
-written by Emil Hyde