Although entirely instrumental, Pele has something very much in common with many of the bands who use vocals: They're an act best watched live. Surprisingly, this Milwaukee trio is killer on-stage, finding the groove early on, making sure the audience gets into it, and then improvising the hell out of the set and having a blast the entire time. Whether it's drummer Jon Mueller's crazy antics -- such as licking the kick drum or toying with balloons -- or bassist Matt Tennessen or guitarist Chris Rosenau running around on-stage, Pele is certainly not an act to be missed. And yet, it is a tough transition for all exciting live bands to carry that same energy into a recording studio and have it come through on the speakers. At the very least, on Enemies (their second album for Polyvinyl), Pele reaches the same mark of energy and excitement set on their Polyvinyl debut, The Nudes. At best, they're furthering that live energy into new dynamics (incorporating Jon Minor's computer work on the album, for example) and more creativity. Enemies starts with an upbeat tune, "Crisis Win," that comes bursting from the start with handclaps and a steady beat. The guitar, still reminiscent of The Nudes as far as sound and tone is concerned, delicately rises into the mix and away Pele goes. The last two-plus minutes of this tune are no doubt an example of Minor's contribution, as there is a myriad of voices filtered into the sound, barely being held together and breaking up with the intonation of buzzing crossing the path of said voices. Irritating hardly describes it. Frankly, it starts Enemies off on the wrong track, but after this initial distraction Pele keeps on running at a nice clip. In some manner, they have taken this part-jazz, part-pop structure and made it reflective music -- perfect for an introspection on a mild winter day. Warm tones continue throughout the album from the guitar, the bass is raised in the mix (and it's needed, seeing as how it's such an important part of the act), and the drums drive the whole show. Computer sounds are thrown in for good measure; at the worst they are distracting and at the best they're mildly complimentary. Surprisingly, Pele finds room for a pop hook or two amongst all the improv and free jazz ("Safe Dolphin" being a good example). In that manner, they seemingly stick out from other instrumental acts. Hopefully, time will allow them to continue to expand, find better ways to interface the computer aspect, and create more albums filled with a beautiful mix of pop sensibilities combined with jazz ingenuity.
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AllMusic Review by Kurt Morris