Words by David C. Obenour
Years before Stranger Things introduced the mainstream to a dark underworld of synthesizers, Pinkish Black had been churning the same brooding depths. Over the last decade, the duo of Daron Beck and Jon Teague have created sonic landscapes filled with hypnotic and anxious energy.
For their second release on Relapse and first album in four years, Concept Unification has a more brutal tone then before. The songs heaviness doesn’t come from frenetic drumming or howled vocals, but through an unrelenting sense of unease and building growl. Dark times call for dark music.
Off Shelf: I read an interview where you talked about being strongly influenced by visuals with Pinkish Black. Can you think of anything that particularly moved you during the writing and recording of Concept Unification?
Jon Teague: The songs were written over a long period of time, so there’s not a particular visual catalyst I can think of. The paintings of Otto Dix, Georg Scholz and George Grosz have always been inspiring. Beauty, cynicism and disgust. Sadly relevant commentaries, created a century ago.
OS: Though it’s always been there, it’s been a pretty dark few years in the Western World. Many of your previous albums have dealt with more personal level situations, but does the increasingly aggressive state of things inform Concept Unification?
JT: Most definitely. The current “face” of America is the most surreal and dangerous that I have experienced. Fear has always been the way, and it seems to be cheaper than ever these days. It’s left me with a kind of somber disgust, but also rage. I think a bit of that came through on this record.
OS: It’s hard to talk about Pinkish Black without discussing the cinematic nature of your music; the sprawling soundscapes that you allow to develop. In an almost Stephen King sort of way, do you feel like your catalogue is creating a sort of world of its own?
JT: I think our records have created their own aesthetic. They are our commentary on our lives, and the world around us. Creating music is how I escape this world. I would only hope the listener could do the same.
OS: I imagine that this kind of music leads to very intentional sequencing on your albums. How did you go about that for Concept Unification?
JT: We wrote “Dialtone” and “Concept Unification” first, then began working on “Next Solution”. Playing those songs live for a few months helped us decide what qualities the other songs would need.
OS: Has the sequencing of songs ever lead to wanting to rerecord how one song leads into the next?
JT: Not so much. We tried to segue one song into another a lot in the early days. Sometimes it worked well, other times it just confused the audience!
OS: Concept Unification comes with two digital bonus tracks, including one of my favorite with “We Wait” – do you ever feel confined by the growing trend towards vinyl and the more restricted playing time that it presents?
JT: This album was written, and sequenced with vinyl in mind. In most cases, I think 40 minutes is just the right length for an album. I’m sure that comes from years of making 90 minute cassette compilations. We thought that we had finished the album, but then found out it needed to have at least eight tracks for digital. That’s when we wrote and recorded “We Wait” and “Away Again”. I would love to see those tracks released as a 7” some day.
OS: You’ve been playing together as Pinkish Black for almost a decade now. How differently do you see your music and band today as opposed to when you started working on your self-titled debut?
JT: In the beginning, we were just trying to figure out how to play as a duo. We needed to make the first record to be sure that we could do it. The response to that it received encouraged us keep it going. It feels like it’s own thing now, as opposed to a continuation of our previous band.
OS: Bit of a tangent, but I wanted to run it by you. In the 90s I always felt like shoegaze rang truer with feelings of alienation and angst as opposed to grunge – what at first glance seems more connected. It wasn’t something you always shouted about, but the feelings were what was loud – as conveyed by the wall of sound. Do you see any parallels to that in how you play the music you do?
JT: In the 90s, Neurosis and Godflesh really embodied those emotions for me. I think those bands both offer their own styles of intense, heavy music that can also be dreamy and beautiful. The evolution of those artists has continued to inspire me. I can only hope to achieve that type of fusion.