‘A lowered rainbow smothers and hovers
As all colors are wrung out
Behind its face, a laughing chasm’
The passage of time tends to weave occasional but nonetheless puncturing distortions of reality that overwhelms you to the point of feeling detached – your body no longer feels like yours and your surroundings mesh into a palindromic haze. It’s a constant, drunken treading through a sensorial frenzy whose intentions you never can quite figure out. Is it all a jest or are things really this chaotic? Boston rock outfit Pile beg to question this and, additionally, test the threshold of sanity on the appropriately titled All Fiction, a record which, apart from marking a new musical cycle for the band, will surely leave its fans and newcomers alike perplexed by the sheer inventiveness showcased throughout.
My first encounter with them began with their Audiotree Far Out live session, having been immediately intoxicated by their serpentine songwriting that denoted a looming presence with such authority uncommon within the genre. I had to find out more on what they were about – thus came Green and Gray into the picture, immediately receiving a Jack Nicholson-levels of nod of approval from yours truly. This unhinged hybrid of post-hardcore, noise rock and slowcore left an impression on me since then and, when I saw All Fiction listed to write a review for, I had to jump onto it.
And godamn did they deliver once more. There’s just something about their sprawling approach to composition that leaves you spellbound – ominously charismatic despite the chaotic nature presented on the melodies and lyrics alike. All Fiction, of course, bring this to usual fruition, only this time the trio finally give in to this brand of madness, bringing forth a record brimming with attention to atmosphere and an emotional depth that, while intimidating to face with at first, is nonetheless liberating.
On the record’s opener “It Comes Closer”, you’re met with a sense of foreboding unique to the band, with vocals swaying from being layered and textured to fully drenched in distortion, and whose tone is akin to that of someone on the verge of downright breaking bad. Accompanying them is an equally harrowing orchestration of strings, keys, and unassuming percussions that fantastically captures the overlaying mood of All Fiction. It’s all a disquieting pace that carries on towards the following tracks “Loops” and “Gardening Hours”, where doubt and unabashed cynicism reign over a mechanical post-punk rhythm that gives stage to a repressed desperation so striking that it can feel unnerving to listen to at times.
Their particular aggressiveness is even more retained on “Poison” – punchy at its core but with a flare for theatrics utterly mesmerizing. This track has some of the best, harshest vocal performances on the record, only amplified by a sonic jaggedness that solidly illustrates the impotence roaming around All Fiction, especially made apparent on how the following lines from its second verse were delivered: ‘I belong to the ground/but I’ve been groomed by a dream I bought‘. Conversely, there’s an intensity much more subdued on a song like “Blood”, where janky guitar riffs, meandering vocals, and surprisingly tender strings take the spotlight to convey the all-too real cycle of disappointment:
‘And I’ve a sneaking suspicion
That it’s been a joke the whole time
That our brains are playing pranks
That are just feeding us lines
But I’m still unconvinced
That not even nothing exists‘
Nevertheless, it is on the more experimental cuts where Pile truly shine on All Fiction. You get a glimpse of this on the aforementioned first track, but once you arrive at “Link Arms”, the album reaches towards new levels of excellence. The paranoia-induced nature of the track triggers your senses in an immediate fashion, with the deadpan and, at times, robotic delivery of the vocals that seem on the brink of insanity – smothered by the bass-heavy arrangement and an infectious keys lead – certainly positions it as one of the record’s highlights.
“Lowered Rainbow” and “Forgetting” effortlessly follow its steps, bringing in more dynamic drumming, left-field production, and a palpable melancholy that lingers in you much longer after listening to them. The former in particular has some of the most maniacal lyrics out of the tracklist, as evidenced at the beginning of this review, and contrasting with the otherwise low-key flow of the song quite strikingly. The last two tracks, “Nude With A Suitcase” and “Neon Gray” act as a wonderful resolve for the record with pristine songwriting and an air of solemn acceptance that accurately captures the record’s overall view of standing on a needle midst a broken world.
‘The best-kept secret of the 21st century,’ posited a YouTube comment from one of their videos and I honestly can’t disagree with that. Pile have already acquired their standing as a fantastic rock band from previous efforts, but All Fiction further proved their drive for sonic ambition and surreal storytelling – a drive that equally surprises and resonates with you. If there is a 2023 record that simply can’t be missed it is for sure this one, because what Pile have achieved here is more than worthy of your time. All Fiction is, without a doubt, the genesis of their musical renaissance.