Pia Fraus are a band from Estonia. The only thing i know about that ex-Soviet Republic is that there is a crazy painter there named Ivo who listens to the Cocteau Twins and claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. I am not making this up -- the guy posts weird messages on the Cocteau Twins fan forum every once in a while, i guess whenever he forgets to take his meds...
But i am sure that not all people in Estonia are nuts. To prove that point, i present Pia Fraus, which is the name of a six-piece act from the city of Tallinn. The band crafts a music that seems to perfectly fuse two seemingly disparate elements in 1990s music. That is, the Pia Fraus sound can be summed up with this phrase: "What if Kevin Shields joined Stereolab?" In a way, that is kind of the wet-dream of a lot of shoegaze fans: Shields wonderful fuzzy pop production with the 60s lounge groove of Stereolab, and Latetia Sadier's rich voice.
That is what Pia Fraus sound like. And it really works. There are nicely distorted guitars, languid beats, droning organs, and lovely vocal harmonies, all blending nicely here.
The real winner on this album is Yennissey, which must be something of a hit for these people since it appears that they have just released a follow-up album called Ten Mixes of Yennissey. I like the song and all, but i am not so sure that i want to hear a record of nothing but 10 remixes of this. But anyway, this song has a really catchy keyboard melody and some nice whirring guitars. The female voice of Eve Komp sings in a hushed style, perfectly accentuating the toe-tapping drum beat and the light guitar drone. It really is a nice song, but 10 mixes?
I also like the song Doctor Optimism. The title makes it sound like the theme song to a third-tier superhero (didn't Dr. Optimism rescue Batman from The Scarecrow in a The Brave and the Bold issue in the mid-70s?). Also, the guitars are louder here than on Yennissey and they exist in the spot where the distortion and the natural catchy playing overlap, where the guitarwork sounds like jangle-pop and shoegaze at the same time. This song is another one that is just too catchy, with the guitars building up to a real clanging in the middle, while the two voices, Eve Komp and Rein Fuks, sing a wavering "ohhhh-ohhhh-ohhhh" in harmony. Really nice.
This is a fun record, full of nicely distorted guitar pop, layered with rich 60s style keyboard melodies. Komp and Fuks harmonize really well. I think that Pia Fraus do a good job of adding distortion to electro lounge music. Or lounging up distorted shoegaze. Whichever -- the combination really works. Still not so sure i want to listen to 10 mixes of that one song all at one time, but there is a lot to enjoy on this album. Fans of shoegaze and/or Stereolab will want to check this out.