Pfarmers is a new project consisting of Danny Seim (who was in Menomena), Bryan Devendorf (of The National), and Dave Nelson (who has apparently played with St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens). That's a pretty deep indie rock pedigree.
The record starts with a long, quiet ambient piece. It's called Benthos and is a seven-minute introduction to the record. It is a meandering ambience that remind me vaguely of the last Talk Talk record or some vaguely new ageish Baraka type stuff. A sort of calm yet intellectualized beat that goes on in a vaguely droning manner...
...And then suddenly a staccato drum beat comes in, keys drone, and a voice starts singing. The voice is rich and baritone, just lovely, but the drumming drives You Shall Know the Spirit in a strange pattern that taps happily as synths and voice wander above it. The transition is jarring, almost discordant, but i think it works.
Work For Me starts with a chugging rhythm before the song goes all crazy and echoed. There is a nice piano line, and the voice sings "Hang the DJ by the gills" at one point. Love the Smiths reference in this fun tune.
But it all kind of starts going downhill after that. El Dorado sounds like an outtake from a Mr. Mister record. It is stepped in 80s cheese, and something in the droning vocals irritates me. The Olí River Gang has a good beat, a swaying rhythm. But the song just doesn't jell around that rhythm. The whole thing seems to meander pointlessly.
A female voice is added in to sing along on How To Build a Tube, which is a generally pretty tune. Finally there is the almost nine-minute long jam that is Promised Land, which is gets dense towards the end as it brings the record to a close.
The overall impression that i get from Gunnera is one of carefully crafted layering. Pfarmers obviously spent a lot of time in the studio building this out of layers and layers of sounds. When it works, like the first three tracks and Promised Land, it comes across as pretty yet dense. But as the record goes along, the music seems to just become busier and less thoughtfully crafted.
I think that this record starts strong, but gets weaker the longer it goes. It gets jammier, more like the kind of stuff that i imagine guys who wear backwards baseball caps and Tivas listen to in their jeeps while going to play frisbee golf.
Pfarmers have some potential, but don't quite fulfill it here.