Pengo - a nervous splendor
Pengo, a trio from Rochester, NY, have been in existence since 1998, but A Nervous Splendor is only their second full-length release. Issued as the premiere offering of Hahoma Records, a label run by Jason Finkbeiner and John Schoen, 2/3 of Pengo, the album's faux-Actuel packaging and guerilla warfare imagery combine to provide a good sense of Pengo's sound: strains of more established avant-gardisms taken over aggressively by an underground sensibility and a rough, ragged dismissal of the "rules" in favor of more primal tactics.
On their second release, the group, made up of Schoen, Finkbeiner, and Joe Tunis exhibit a sense of almost rustic musical exploration. The first side's banjo-led pieces offer, in a sense, a loose, modern take on Henry Flynt's hillbilly drones and ramblings. The group's warped shamanism, equal parts middle eastern and backwoods Appalachian, is augmented by vocal samples which, due both to subject content and Pengo's manipulation of them, don't come off nearly as ill-advised as one might think. Languid banjo lines dance among the clangs and rings of bells and cymbals, while more fervid strumming fuels escalating drones of increasing intensity.
The LP's second side, taken up entirely by the long-form "What Do You Mean, Idi Amin?" features the group, augmented by the mysterious figure known only an Nuuj, begins as a plodding, menacing drone that slowly but surely gains steam before hitting its stride in a full-on explosion of ecstatic dizziness