Changes outside and inside the band influence the (slightly) quieter ‘Pinned’
In concert, A Place to Bury Strangers embraces volume, cranking its amps and leveling attendees with waves of guitar distortion and feedback. But on the band's most recent full length, Pinned, released earlier this year on Dead Oceans, the New York City-based crew carves a slightly quieter path, favoring brooding tempos, more prevalent electronic noise and spacious, increasingly desolate soundscapes.
Singer and guitarist Oliver Ackerman traces this evolution to the 2014 closure of Death by Audio, a combination workspace, venue and recording studio in which the band had long made its home (the site also functioned as the workshop and offices for Ackerman's still-active guitar pedal company, also named Death by Audio).
“A lot of the record was recorded in my apartment where we had neighbors and couldn't really get too loud. We'd record into the wee hours of the night, and those were the sounds and moments that captured something exciting,” said Ackerman, who joins bandmates Dion Lunadon (bass) and Lia Simone Braswell (drums, vocals) in concert at Ace of Cups on Thursday, Oct. 25. “We went and recorded in some studios and in some live spaces kind of after most of the demos had been done, but a lot of that original stuff sounded so good it ended up making it on the record.”
The record also documents a transition within the band, with Braswell stepping in on drums and co-lead vocals — an addition that followed a stretch when Ackerman questioned if the group should even continue.
“You're wondering if you're beating a dead horse and kind of doing the same sort of thing. I didn't even know if this was going to be a record when we started working on it, and as it turns out, you find there are some interesting aspects and some things worth putting together,” he said. “Adding Lia into that mix helped out. I saw a lot of potential and a lot of cool, interesting things happening. … I don't want to be some sort of band that's just around playing the hits or something. You always have to stray away from that, and we always do.”
No matter how much the songs stray, though, the band's musical DNA exhibits itself in the pervasively downcast, slate-gray mood — “It's never a complete departure because our own aesthetic always comes through,” Ackerman said — and the frontman's fondness for unkempt guitar noise, which reveals itself even within the new record's comparatively stiller pastures.
“There's something so awesome hearing the power of a guitar cranked up … where it rattles through your body,” Ackerman said. “It's just so complex. It's like the sound of pure electricity.”