Brooklyn-based band Passenger Peru, consisting of Justin Stivers and Justin Gonzales, is preparing for a reissue of their newly remastered self-titled album that the band originally released in September of last year. Both lyrically and instrumentally, this album is a journey. According to their facebook page, this reflects the lives of the members while they conceptualized and recorded it:
“Written and recorded from the deserts of Eastern Washington to the chaos of New York City, all the way up to the tranquil landscapes of Alaska–these songs were written under extreme conditions over several difficult, hungry years.”
In the opening sequence of Marcel Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu,” the narrator describes himself as a child laying in the discomfort of home, imagining the places he’s been and will be based on the geographical location of a passing train, which is determined by the pitch and volume of its whistle. This album summons the listener in a similar way, with a versatile sound and predominantly ethereal-sounding vocals, it evokes temporal and spacial memories with the inconsistencies and dreamlike nature of memory and the dualities of life.
These dualities are represented often in the contrast of the instrumentation and the vocals. The opening track, “Your Hunger,” opens with heavy, droning guitar in the manner of desert rock, but is accompanied by airy, melodic vocals. The track Health System contains soft, tranquil percussion, yet it is still upbeat and danceable. This track bursts with interpolations of heavy guitar.
Here is the September release of Passenger Peru’s that the band has remastered and is rereleasing this spring:
Another life-reflecting contrast on this album is the occasional cacophonic, post-punk guitar work that brings to mind bands like Nation of Ulysses, but with the upbeat, dance-able and delicate, refined vocals. With these vocals and lyrics like “Vacation’s over now / The money has been spent / Vacation’s over now/ Reality’s the rent” the band imitates the frustrating norms of life found in any Unwound album, without being as slow or explicitly depressing. This creates a melancholy that possesses the listener to be ill at ease with an existential existence in a very subtle way.
The lyrics and vocals are gut-wrenchingly unemotional, airy and melodic. They speak of the comfort of travel and the somber nature of the banal. They play with the cloudiness of memory and travel through time and space. The echoed vocals in “Pollen Season” accompanied by a fast beat and guitar distortion would serve well in a lucid dream, exploring the mitigated elements of memory and life.
“Memory Garden,” the seventh track, is a more concrete anthem that pleas to “remember this moment.” This song conjures the emotion of the present instead of the more spacey tracks dealing with subjects of a temporal or geographical long distance. This reminder to preserve what will soon be memories alone is almost heartbreaking.
Like the vocals and the instrumentation, the production is refreshingly raw yet aerial. The heavy opening of track 5, “Heavy Drugs,” transitioning into more precise guitar chords and the sweet production of the vocals exemplifies the thematic contrasts in the album.
The album is well worth the audible train journey, summoning you seamlessly through time and memory in a way so subtle you don’t even know it’s happening aside from the barely noticeable oscillation of your soul between tranquility and an unnamed ache with the provocation of cohesive musical oscillation between heavy and light, dark and upbeat, melodic and dissonant. The album is slight yet evocative, varied but cohesive, and completely pleasant to listen to on both a deep and superficial level.