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The Gods Themselves – Pink Noise (The Gods Themselves)

The Gods Themselves - Pink Noise
14 June 2016

Although named for a 1972 Isaac Asimov science fiction novel, this Seattle trio’s specialty is not 1970s space-rock. But their second album does dabble in plenty of that depraved and delirious decade’s other music styles – most notably its soul/R&B, urban funk, and disco – even more than on their 2014 self-titled debut. Like that first LP’s now-departed co-singer and axeman Damion Heintschel, new member Dustin Patterson (ex-Connerys) brandishes a low-toned baritone guitar. Combined with the groove-generating guitar of Astra Elane and the durable drums of Collin O’Meara (both formerly of garage/psych combo Atomic Bride), the bass-less band still manages to manufacture deep, deliberate, and danceable beats.

The ‘70s influences are inescapable; you can almost imagine Pink’s swiftest, most strenuous song “Stop/Listen” – featuring Elane’s and Patterson’s cool, call-and-response vocals and O’Meara’s skittering cymbal slaps – filling up the dancefloor of Studio 54 during that infamous institution’s late-70s heyday. As well, Elane’s slothful, submerged wah-wah effects on “Pink Champagne” conjure up background music to countless ‘70s porn movies and TV cop shows, while the gritty “Hercules” – helped by Patterson’s buzzing baritone and Elane’s seductive, street-smart singing – summons the soundtrack of a Shaft/Foxy Brown-inspired blaxploitation film. Patterson’s pliable playing juggles other genres, too. His pulsing, vibrating rhythms (along with some Chic “Le Freak”-styled synth-driven strings) give the spirited, salacious opener “Tangerines” a psychedelic sensation, his reverb-drenched riffs lend the drubbing, Dum Dum Girls-educing “Higher Places” a surf/island flavor, and his shivery shimmer infuses their trudging, twangy take on John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John’s 1978 Grease soundtrack #1 smash “You’re the One That I Want” with a simultaneously Phil Spector-ish and Ennio Morricone-esque sheen.

Finally, while Patterson’s breathy, Nick Cave-like brogue holds its own, it’s Elane’s powerful pipes – honed by her pre-Atomic Bride years working with bands and producers while living in NYC, Paris, and Denmark – that again steal the show. Her velvety vocals still bring to mind Pat Benatar and Debbie Harry, but they also hint of Long Blondes’ Kate Jackson, Dum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee, and ‘70s soul singers like Betty Davis and Ann Peebles, while her tempting talk-singing on the throbbing “Love and Television” evokes Eartha Kitt. As I raved in my review of the debut, she “exhibits a playful, provocative pull that entices,” and that’s also true on Pink – right down to the short ‘n’ sassy, jumprope-skipping jingle “Bubblegum.” (