locking in at just under 40 minutes, Picastro’s debut effort is the ideal listening time for a record that deals in melancholic landscapes and downtrodden atmospheres. It’s just long enough for you to envelope yourself in the sound and the feel of the record, while not being long enough that you find yourself bored or overly depressed. The band consists of Liz Hysen, Zak Hanna, Evan Clarke, and Rachel McBride. Hysen seems to be the unofficial leader of the group as she takes care of the vocals and songwriting duties. It is the electric guitar of Hanna, the drums of Clarke, and especially the cello of McBride that fill out the sound of the band and allow Hysen’s visions come to reality.
By the end of the first track the structure of the songs becomes apparent: moody interplay between strings (guitar and cello), rhythmic stabilization or punctuation, and subdued- almost monotone- vocals. While this structure yields some interesting results it is never truly broken out of and hampers the ability of the record to truly transcend the sum of its parts.
On “Mine” the guitar and cello both play delicately plucked melodies that mirror each other almost exactly. Hysen’s vocals ride in between these two driving lines awaiting some sort of break. The second verse features only the guitar and Hysen until the cello comes in once again playing a more legato melody that counterpoints the guitar nicely. It is one of the finest songs on the record because it is both simple and haunting. The entire time that the song progresses there is a feeling of impending dread, the arrival of something horrible could come at anytime. The drums never enter in, though, leaving the listener hanging in a state of flux until the next track comes on the stereo.
For all of these small moments of beauty amid tension, there are moments that the instrumentation seems too limiting and constricting. The constant drone of the cello versus the frequently bombastic guitar lines becomes almost tiresome by the end of the record. This, coupled with the fact that many of the songs sound very much alike on the first few listens, may repel less adventurous listeners to the sound of Picastro. Those quite familiar with the trappings of post rock should have no trouble adjusting to this sameness that pervades the album. For the average listener, it is a shame, however, as they may write this band with its debut album because it’s quite obvious that this is a capable debut that hints at great things to come from this band.