On their third LP Angel it is clear that Pure X have, and always have had, an uncompromising musical vision. Over the course of each full-length the band has tirelessly reinvented themselves, opting to stay true to their own sensibilities rather than placate expectations or regurgitate a “successful” sound. After wooing both critics and audiences alike with their seductive, submerged-in-reverberation debut Pleasure the band pulled an about-face on their sophomore album Crawling Up the Stairs, crafting a follow up that emphasized textural clarity and raw emotionality over its predecessor’s intoxicating soundscapes. Now on their third LP, and first as a quartet, the internal upheaval of C.U.T.S. has fully dissipated and given way to a new found serenity, a calm which finds the band in its most potent, refined, and elemental form yet.
Angel was recorded to tape in a concentrated burst over five days at Wied Hall- a massive, rustic, 100 year-old dance hall in rural central Texas. The band isolated themselves to living in the cavernous space during the Fall of 2013 after a year full of touring and writing on the road, seeking a secluded setting to construct what would become their most focused work to date. The results show the group of Jesse Jenkins, Nate Grace, Austin Youngblood, and newly acquired full-time member Matty Tommy Davidson leaving themselves totally unguarded. During their residency the band had time to absorb the pastoral romanticism of the countryside as well as Wied’s rich history of having hosted many of country music’s finest in the last century. Subsequently, a deliberate patience exudes from the album both in the band’s freshly honed songwriting and spacious compositional structure. Lush, layered vocal treatments, dialogues of gently plucked electric and strummed 12-string guitar, reserved percussion, and precariously sensual bass are all allowed ample room to breathe and delicately bathe in the great hall’s natural reverb. More than ever Pure X’s influences are allowed to show through in full, unveiling affinities which were present in their past recordings but never totally expressed until now. Harmonies such as those on the achingly gorgeous opener Starlight, lead by Jesse Jenkins’ silky falsetto, interweave with a complexity and precision that is reminiscent of 70’s soul, steadily propelled forward by a stoic groove of bass, guitar, and tightly tracked drum kit. On the 2-step ballad Heaven the spirit of classic country’s golden-era is seamlessly assimilated into the band’s sound while Nate Grace’s lyrics conversely explore the reality of an inner, readily accessible utopia. Elsewhere on Every Tomorrow a sober raga of 12-string acoustic hangs serenely over measured doses of hand percussion and minimal string arrangements punctuated by ascending ladders of buzzing synth. Singers Jenkins and Grace, sharing vocal duties evenly across the recording, boldly explore a full range of motion to share a collection of strikingly honest songs about love, aspiration, and the deep yearning for the authentic unity with oneself.
Pure X’s third long-player, written collectively between all four members and recorded mostly live with minimal overdubs, sees the band further refining themselves after a year of being strenuously tempered on the road. These pieces, comprised of ideas stolen away during moments in the tour van and hammered out on various stages across the United States, were brought back home with a distinct purpose, with one concerted intention: to make the album they had always wanted to make. And thus, Pure X have crafted a beautifully genuine pop record whose influences span across genres and generations without reserve while simultaneously coming into their own in the process.