Music Reviews
Say Yes to Love

Perfect Pussy Say Yes to Love

(Captured Tracks) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

I’ve spent a good couple of months with this record and I must have listened to it thirty times, and it hasn’t been a straightforward trip. Despite being full of anticipation after their no-fi screamtacular demo tape I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, (which I had on repeat over autumn), Say Yes to Love initially disappointed me – only eight tracks in twenty-three minutes, a good chunk of which is an unabashedly indulgent avant-garde lowercase ambient interlude seemingly designed as a comment upon the album format. We can agree that a lot of our favourite music grows on us, right? Especially if you spend your first few listens to it in the background scrolling through Tumblr. A few weeks ago, I told a friend it was pretentious and I’ve been kicking myself about it ever since.

I haven’t really mentioned it to anyone since then, nor have I played it to any of my friends – because it’s so noisy and unrelenting, sharing it feels like sharing my own private emotional releases. One yowled couplet that rings out during a momentary dip in the noise levels: “And I want to FUCK MY SELF / And I want to EAT MY SELF” – phrases so vulgar that they could mean anything you want them to mean. But most of its lyrics are buried, especially if you don’t give this your full attention: its thought patterns are hidden not just behind feedback waves, but Meredith Graves’ stream-of-consciousness inscrutability. Its musical structures are built around the capriciousness of emotional fits; there’s nothing you could describe as a chorus, because Perfect Pussy are constantly lunging into new places. In the 102 seconds of Bells they cram in five or six momentous structural changes, but you don’t even notice the seams until you mentally keep track. The first seven songs might as well be one long expulsion of fitful energy, as Perfect Pussy constantly find new ways to stimulate that teenage bit of your brain that wants to scream and punch things and has a lot of things to say but doesn’t know how to say them.

Interference Fits shows signs of relenting the pressure, with a tambourine and a riff-like a lo-fi appropriation of the pauses for breath from Trail of Dead’s alt-rock touchstone Source Tags and Codes. But as it builds, as Graves yowls out her unfiltered, Jenny Holzer-like all-caps exultations, the track vortexes and takes you with it in its spiralling intensity. I don’t have a lyrics sheet for Say Yes to Love but half the fun of it has been making my own connections, piecing together my own meanings along with the strings of syllables I can fleetingly discern.

The reverse effect is employed at the record’s pointedly anticlimactic conclusion: instead of swirling up with energy it is drained away, sucked into thrumming ambience. It’s a reasonable guess that this left turn is guided by synth player Shaun Sutkus, whose noise project Pretengineer shows his discipline in this field – but if like most people you don’t spend much time listening to noise, it doesn’t matter; what’s represented here is exactly what it sounds like. They spend at least four of the record’s 23 minutes withdrawing into this blank-canvas exile, but somehow it still sounds like it’s straining at every edge, aching underneath it all with the same reckless overspill that fills this album. From the other side of the abyss, a surreal imitation of a Perfect Pussy song emerges – a noise-fragment sound collage and Graves murmuring aloud, at one point quoting Joanna Newsom: “I could not undo that desire”.

There aren’t many surface-level similarities between the two bands, but those of us who appreciated The Knife’s daringly exhaustive experimental interludes on Shaking the Habitual might appreciate the similarities with Say Yes to Love: it allocates a similar ratio of its length to ambient textures, with a similar goal of dismantling and re-shaping what the album format means. It’s going to piss people off. Fantastic! Has great art ever been made without pissing a lot of people off? Give yourself over to it: whereas The Knife wore all their sprawling flaws on their sleeves, this record’s structure, poetic in its proportions, is its greatest virtue.

It calls to mind all kinds of visual imagery, different to me every time: it’s an abstract expressionist canvas with a huge patch of negative space at one side; it’s a long hysterical fit followed by silent shaking and a queasy aftermath; and more obscurely, it's a kind of allegory which might speak more about the politics of this band (obvious from their name and their interviews, but less traceable in their music). But of course, as anyone who has heard a bar of Perfect Pussy’s music will tell you, it is carried by the incredible talents of Meredith Graves. She performs with as much declamatory passion whether her band has titled a record I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling or Say Yes to Love. That is: unfiltered catharsis.