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Published: 2006/05/14
by Brian Gearing

Live From Out There – Pnuma Trio

Harmonized Records 27

With the release of their debut live album, Live from Out There, the rapidly rising Pnuma Trio have officially thrown their hat into the already overcrowded jamtronica ring. Like most of their peers, the band’s sound revolves around the paradoxically complex beats and simple rhythms of its rhythm section, while keyboardist Ben Hazlegrove’s tension-building riffing pushes drummer Lane Shaw’s high hat to the breaking point. Fully instrumental and wholly beat-driven, there’s little about the Pnuma Trio to separate them from Lotus, the New Deal, and others of the same ilk, but despite its sameness, Live from Out There proves that this young band can play with the big boys.

Opening with “Achi,” which borrows from LTJ Bukem’s jungle milestone Journey Inwards and leans heavily on guest guitarist Matt Gader’s nimble fingers, this is a live record in every sense: while the sound mix avoids many of the grumbling points of other youthful live documents, the gritty crackle of the keys and occasionally distracting crowd banter are fitting for a band at this stage in its career. The Pnuma Trio is still playing in front of bar crowds filled with casual walk-ins more worried about their next drink than the music on stage, and while the audience on Live from Out There is enthusiastic, that guy is at times unavoidable.

“Robot” starts off in much the same pensive mood as “Achi” and moves through a funky keyboard break before turning a corner into Disco Biscuits-esque trancefusion, but at heart, this is purely a dance record. “Air” moves from disco-funk to soulful house, and Hazlegrove’s frenzied keys on “Tall Tree” finally settle into a groove as the obligatory um-tah of a breakneck house beat starts moving bodies on the dance floor. With a little sleight of hand, the trio even transforms the opening reggae bounce of “TVRC” into a groovadelic digijam.

Such flippant turns of phrase might be read as an insult if not for their undeniable truth: it is what it is, and while every band tries desperately to distinguish itself from its peers and influences, The Pnuma Trio would be hard pressed to dig its round peg out of the hole it’s dug for itself. Case in point: “Bufkins Tank”like their fellow scenesters, Pnuma Trio aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before, but that’s not really the point. Live from Out There is a fuzzy snapshot of one good night on the road with a band whose only goal is to make you dance, and on this one good night, The Pnuma Trio accomplished its mission.

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