Some time ago, there was a quartet named Blackbirds, and a couple weeks before they were supposed to play a gig, their lead singer and guitarist moved out of town. Instead of folding up, the three remaining members worked quickly, coming up with a batch of instrumental tracks that they enjoyed, then regrouped after said show and reworked and refined their sound any more. After a name change to Pit Er Pat, the remaining members tweaked their output even more and released a series of limited, hand-screened CDs and records, which caught the attention of Thrill Jockey. Shakey is the first full-length from the group and it's not quite what you'd expect from the label.
Comprised of electric piano, bass, and drums (with all three members on vocals), Pit Er Pat plays a rhythm-heavy, sparse style of music that could easily draw comparisons to Blonde Redhead (the vocals of singer Fay Davis-Jeffers even have the same sort of rough charm). "Bird" opens the release and high electric piano melodies play out over a subdued rhythm section as male vocals turn into female vocals before the whole track shifts direction and turns into a rollicking carnival ride as the drums pummel and keys play out like some sort of teasing dance.
"Scared Sorry" keeps things hopping with bizarre arrangements and unique transitions as the group pops from one section to the next as melodies shift off from playful to ominous and singer Davis-Jeffers ties the whole thing together with her sometimes childlike vocals. One of the best traits of the group is their ability to seemingly turn on a dime sonically and switch gears so abruptly. Shakey is a very concise album at nine tracks and just under forty minutes running length, and the group dances with arrangements that recall everything from jazz to math rock.
Musically, they shape-shift just as easily, keeping things chipper at moments before slipping into rather dour sections. The somewhat unhoned vocal stylings of all three singers doesn't detract from the songs at all, only adding to the twisted carny-ride trip they take you on. Although they manage to keep things fairly interesting, all the dynamic shifts and quirky songwriting take a toll after awhile, and their limited instrument palette sometimes leads to tracks that sound like repeats of earlier pieces. That said, Shakey is a unique little album that will weave little sections into your mind and stick there sometimes without you even knowning (several melodies on "Underwater Wave Game" have come back as hummed or whistled melodies that pop out of my head without any sort of warning). A good, but not quite great full-length debut.