REVIEW: Pillar Point - Marble Mouth

Laura Kerry

From the hokey-pokey to hanging in da club, dancing has a longstanding reputation as a joyful activity. But as moshers and The Eagles know, there are many other reasons to dance: some dance to remember, and others dance to forget.

Pillar Point, AKA Seattle’s Scott Reitherman, embraces the many causes that encourage a person to move his or her body to music. His sophomore full-length, Marble Mouth, swings between synth pop, indie pop, and a touch of experimental, but pulses the whole way through with movement-provoking beats and synth lines. As an album that includes songs called “Part Time Love,” “Gloomsday,” and “Underground,” though, most of the pulse derives from something other than pleasure. The final song’s title and refrain expresses it best: “Dance Like You Wanna Die.”

I suppose we should expect a hint of gloom from an artist whose is always pictured in black-and-white or warm-colored, faded portraits, looking out into space. If anyone can produce dance music that is also pensive, it’s this fellow, who, in the first song on the LP, declares, “I can’t stay cool / I’ve tried." Self-reflection, generally reserved for quieter milieus than dance, creeps in elsewhere, too. In the chorus of “Strange Brush,” a darker song whose bass line and surreal imagery recalls Of Montreal at points (not the only song that does), Reitherman sings, “Strange brush, paints me in ways that feel strange”—touching on the song’s theme of being cut off from one’s perceptions. “I shake my own dreams in the rhythms / But heaven will never make sounds,” he says in the verse, dancing again for reasons other than happiness.

So what are other reasons to dance? Maybe it's been raining for a while and you're cooped up and restless. In “Gloomsday,” Pillar Point samples Seattle's rain-drenched weather report for the first minute before launching into a droning road-trip tune (“turn up the speakers, forget the rain”) turned party hype song (“I want to take you to the party tonight”). Maybe a relationship is falling apart, as in the soulful “Dove” with its warm synth arpeggios. Maybe you’re just feeling playful (and tripping?), like with the eerie instrumental voices and pounding bass of the twisted, psychedelic funk in “Playtime.”

Throughout Marble Mouth, Pillar Point spins propulsive beats and sometimes twitchy, sometimes echoing synth layers that bring to mind dancing weirdly and wildly in dark rooms. But despite a sound that is at home in a dance venue and a voice that tends to lean towards the robotic, flattening end of effects, the album mostly remains human and warm. “I lost my peace in the crowd noise,” he says in “Strange Brush.” Sometimes, though, it’s noise—and the movement it causes—that allows you to find peace.