PICK OF THE WEEK: Pencey Sloe’s shadowy gaze brings chills on misty ‘Don’t Believe, Watch Out’

Photo by Lou Beauchard

As much as I have grown to appreciate summer, this stretch of year when autumn is right over the horizon is my favorite time. It won’t be long until cold rains fall, fogs rise in the morning, the bones are chilled inside damp clothing, and darker music becomes even more welcoming. I’m getting a little excited in the stomach just thinking about it.

A month or so ago, I dug into “Don’t Believe, Watch Out,” the immersive debut record from French trio Pencey Sloe. Right away I dreamt of colder winds and decaying leaves, even though I was a couple months from it, and now that we’re closer than ever, this music feels like it’s tightening its dark embrace. The band’s doomy shoegaze mixes elements of groups such as The xx, Daughter, True Widow, and even countrymates Alcest. The music operates in the shadows and sneaks up on you, with the choruses to their songs tackling you from behind and making your heart race. The band—guitarist, singer, main composer Diane Pellotieri, lead guitarist Valentin Beaucourt, drummer Clément Aulnois—aren’t metallic heavy from a volume standpoint, but they’re mighty from an emotional pull and easily made a disciple out of me with my first listen. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been back.

“Lust of the Dead” starts the record in murk, with Pellotieri’s voice floating, and don’t be surprised if you’re immediately arrested by her singing. “Can’t find the answer, did they ever live? Can’t find the answer, don’t you see?” she calls before a great chorus that rouses, and the track ends with your head in the clouds. “Buried Them All” is rugged and doomy as it starts, as the verses tread steady waters, and the choruses wash you with mist. The pace later swaggers a bit before sweeping into dreamy clouds and churning into the air. “All OK” bleeds in before the tempo kicks up and a gazey thunder rumbles. Like most of the songs on here, the chorus is tremendous with Pellotieri calling, “It’s all right, it’s all OK, and now you stay for me, I’m falling for you.” The track gives off a chilly ambiance as guitars caterwaul, and the volume stings on its way out. The title track is ominous and ghostly when it first appears, swelling and gaining storm clouds as lush singing pushes its way ahead. The bends are softer and emotional before the intensity picks up for a bit, while the song has a gentle landing. “Gold and Souls” has the drums driving and the gloom thickening, while the singing is alluring as always, with Pellotieri wailing over the chorus, “I’m on my knees, on my broken bones, I’m on my knees, and it kills my soul.” Later on, the song gets smokier as the strong chorus returns and powers to the end.

“Sins” has the guitars arriving in a mucky cloud as a cold wave emerges, voices echo, and the chorus swells with power. The band buries dreams in the words and music as things surge, suffocate, and create an elegant, frosty finish. “Empty Mind” is the longest track at 6:52, and space debris flies into the skies, while a strange ambiance is created. The bulk of the pace stays within the same headspace, which allows you to lock in and float with them, and then the sounds explode before the lava cracks through the surface. This continues to gather heat and power before the song breathes its last. “It Follows” is an introspective track built by acoustic flourishes and static-filled loops, while the singing is pulled back and more delicate. The song keeps hovering overhead, darkening the ground and spreading the sadness. “Bright Water” has a mellow character, easily breaking open and plodding along before gazey fires are stoked and rage. The chorus is pulverizing, with Pellotieri wailing, “Cause you fight with the water, till the light, and you shine by the fire, you’re drowning your lies,” as guitars pick up and simmer in a sound bath. “17 Springs” closes the record by starting delicately and echoing in the air before it slowly comes to life. Pellotieri sings of longing, especially on the chorus where she calls, “On the edge of the world, I’ll be thinking about us, on the edge of the reason, I’ll be thinking, thinking about us.” The song trickles and shows vulnerability, as the cut tracks back to the chorus again, letting hearts pump blood before it tapers off into the horizon.

Pencey Sloe are arriving at a perfect time when temperatures are about the drop, and cold mists will envelop us all here in the States. Their debut full-length “Don’t Believe, Watch Out” is mesmerizing and chilling, a record that works its way into your bloodstream and refuses to leave until you are fully infected. That partially explains the shivers you’re bound to experience listening to this great record, with the band’s haunting presence making up the second half of that sensation.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Penceysloe/

To  buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://us.prophecy.de/prophecy-prophecy-1/pencey-sloe-don-t-believe-watch-out.html

Or here (International): https://en.prophecy.de/prophecy/pencey-sloe-don-t-believe-watch-out.html

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

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