“The same actions, expecting different outcomes”—the pre-chorus croon in “Mude,” partway through Piles‘ Planet Skin—is a strangely apt lyric for a band that hasn’t changed much since its great introductory salvo of sullen shoegaze employed on last year’s self-titled debut EP. While the root ingredients haven’t deviated significantly, the Milwaukee trio’s third and latest offering shows Piles is not-so-quietly mastering the formula with each new release.
Bleary opener “Blue Glue” quickly sets Planet Skin‘s tone with a barrage of gauzy guitar and faintly Alan Epley-esque vocals. The ever-present six-string haze bleeds into “#3”, “FreeZen” and “Loop” to cover the rhythm section’s hastened tempo during the three songs that best serve to validate the band’s self-described “dreampunk” sound. “Panthron” finds the pace momentarily slowing to match the predominately harsh and impossibly distorted wall of guitars and deluge of downcast vocals (and welcome change from the two-man shouts that permeated past releases) before “Cave” issues a sludgy post-punk parting shot. They say if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. That old adage never said anything about reenforcing something that’s already sturdy through subtle changes. On the whole, Planet Skin is nothing particularly new from Piles, just something better.
Piles release Planet Skin digitally and on vinyl on Friday, May 15 at Riverwest Public House. The band headlines a bill that also features Midwives, and Jerome And The Psychics. The show begins at 10 p.m. and costs $5.