Music Reviews
Pure X

Pure X Pure X

(Fire Talk) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Pure X found their way back into making music after a six-year absence. The Austin, Texas four-piece went quiet after 2014's Angel, a release that saw them broaden their blissed-out, reverb-heavy sound into the creamy sheen of seventies soft rock and obscure cosmic psychedelia. Though Angel at the time was a significant step up in terms of production and songwriting, it also brought some tension and overall fatigue for the band's two main songwriters and vocalists, Nate Grace and Jesse Jenkins. Their fourth self-titled feels like a natural cleanse in name and spirit, allowing them to come back to each other when the timing felt right.

That's not to say that Pure X was a spontaneous endeavor. Written over the course of three years, the band began to work on the ideas they came up with remotely until they decided to expand upon them at Jenkins' studio in Corpus Christi. Similar to Angel's six-day recording stint, Pure X recorded the album live in close to the same amount of time. That warm, lived-in feel sounds immediately familiar on Middle America, where the band goes back to the cherubic fuzz of their debut album release, 2011's Pleasure. But instead, using noise as a way to amplify their clear-headed arrangements.

As usual, Pure X performs in a calm and soothing style while sorting out their troubles. On Middle America, they find themselves desperate to leave a place that doesn't align with their moral compass over a throbbing guitar shimmer: "Somehow, I crash-landed/ In Bible Belt America/Send help, I'm losing." Grace and Jenkins let out a pensive air to these songs, more at ease when compared to the darker undertones of 2013's Crawling Up the Stairs. "My people work so hard and work so long/And break and fall and disappear," Grace laments on Fantasy, an observation that's heartbreaking but also grounded in realism.

If Angel expressed loving sentiments with flighty escapism, then Pure X tends toward the beautiful backdrops that frame the struggle of day-to-day life. "Head in the sky and my feet on the earth/I'm ready to know what my life is worth," Grace sings on Free My Heart, embracing the constant of change over a pearly, bluesy lick. He feels frazzled and hopeless on Grieving Song, feeling that despair with every note he plays as it concludes with a stunning guitar solo—and instantly making whatever comparisons they get to slow haze of Galaxie 500 a moot point. And, though hard to come by, there's also high-spirited moments of complete surrender—take Angels of Love, one of Jenkins', where a furious, Neil Young-like guitar lead commands from opening to its slow fade.

At first glance, it's hard to pinpoint the strides Pure X has taken considering how they make their songs sound so effortless. The band has kept true to playing in a groove that suits them, stringing together a wistful, thoughtful mood where every note they play doesn't feel wasted. In the past, Pure X used to conceal their bare arrangements with rippling feedback; now, they find ways to fine-tune the distortion to complement their confident and agile playing. It's revealing nonetheless, and shows that there was never anything simple about the band's approach—always intent on keeping their sound in control when the emotions behind it are not.