WITH A FEW noted exceptions—Salvador Dalí, the Clash, lots of rappers—artists are often humble. Usually, the braggadocio only surfaces after having achieved specific personal goals; more often, it's a front. Either way, it's generally not in newer bands' marrow. But in the case of Pegasus Dream and their new EP In Absentia, noticeably absent is the ordinarily rosy-cheeked gushing of songwriters unsure of the merit or strength. Not only is the trio confident of the quality of their five-song offering—they're downright giddy.
"I think the final product is five really bangin' tracks," says keyboardist/vocalist Andy Carlson. "I don't feel like there's any wasted time. It's five solid, three-to-four minute songs that are catchy, with no filler."
The thing about this poise is that it's not misplaced. Carlson is totally correct. In Absentia is one of the best releases to come out of Portland this year, and it's definitely one of the best psych-dance releases in recent memory.
The EP (engineered, co-produced, and mixed by drummer Jeff Bond and vocalist/guitarist JT Lindsey at Bond's Clangor Den studios) marks the second release for the Portland band—originally from Spokane, Washington, until three years ago—and first as a trio. Their 2010 debut Painting Pantheons (later re-released by current label SoHiTek Records) flits within the confines of their more immediate electro forbearers like Of Montreal and Starfucker, and is a damn good effort in its own right. That LP, helmed by Lindsey's considerable songwriting prowess, also featured flashes of the extraordinary catchiness that eventually came to fruition on In Absentia.
The EP's brief runtime is forgivable thanks to its charming swaths of dancey pop, right from the onset of the title track. Lindsey's deft guitar lines complement Bond's solid percussion and Carlson's key flourishes on the trippy psych jam "Righteous Tiger." In Absentia could have been remarkable just for those two tracks alone, were it not anchored by the intoxicating, synthed-out rocker "Oxen Free," a smartly composed, dangerously addictive tune that filters out most of the band's more experimental bent to focus on what ought to be a bona fide club hit.
The bedrock for the fluidity of the EP could be attributed to the band's deliberate pacing with the songwriting-to-recording process. The trio retreated to a seaside cabin at the beginning of 2011, with Lindsey bringing along the core of the five songs that would end up on the EP. Pegasus Dream spent the next year grinding away at the songs live, getting a feel for how they wanted to approach them in the studio. It was a complete about-face to the distinctly unmethodical approach they employed for their first album.
"I think that's why this album is so well refined," says Carlson. "We took the time to really make sure all the decisions we made and the music that we considered were the right choices based on how they felt live, and based on how they felt recorded."
Carlson cites the band's machine-like self-reliance for their recent strokes of fortune. The sum of Bond's recording wizardry, Lindsey's songwriting talent, and Carlson's design and visual contributions is certainly formidable. "We're really a team that can cover all of its bases," Carlson says.