The Nudes

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The fourth album by this Milwaukee trio is a gorgeous mixture of spontaneous elements, combining experimentation and improvisation with already composed melodies much like their previous Elephant. As such, it is difficult to place Pele's music in any particular category, and that is both a blessing and a curse. The eight tracks of complex and melancholy instrumental interplay are difficult to get a hand around, precisely because they vibrate so dynamically, but also because they avoid conventional description. Perhaps the most instantly recognizable feature is Chris Rosenau's abstract guitar doodles that gingerly set down the mostly downcast brushstrokes on the surface of songs; but the most interesting and virtuosic ingredient is Matt Tennessen's majestic (both in depth of sound and in technical facility) bass playing, which holds a pulse even while he is freely roaming up and down the fretboard. More than rock or pop, Pele play lo-fi instrumental jazz, a sound that could conceivably come from a small jazz-like setting or from a cozy living room or basement (which is exactly where it was recorded). Pele avoids the unfortunate post-rock tendency of turning rock, jazz, and electronic music into an indecipherable and indistinct soup by avoiding electronics and nearly eschewing rock (outside of some moments of conventional beat-keeping), while turning the rhythmic interplay into the reason for and reward of the music. Of all the songs, "Gugi" is the only one that truly sticks out, with its hurried, frenetic pace and wistful melody. But even if most of the songs aren't (and perhaps weren't meant to be) sonically distinct enough to stand out on their own, The Nudes retains a breathtaking, painterly beauty. It is an album that bypasses the quick fix for the big picture. It captures a moment rather than an implicit meaning, a movement rather than a pose.

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