Brooklyn noisepunk outfit Parts & Labor has dramatically altered their wall-of-sound: Their fourth album, Receivers, finds P&L focusing on open spaces, longer movements, expansive arrangements and loftier goals. On eight epic tracks, Receivers showcases the band's catchiest and darkest moods to date, reveling in a growing dynamic sensibility only hinted at in their previous work. Though they've maintained their love affair with glitchy oscillations and anthemic vocals, they are now utilizing the full possibilities of a band that was once a scrappy punk trio, and now a mature art-rock quartet. It's a heady mix of psych, noise, and pop influenced by the arty minimalism of Wire, the surreal pop of early Eno, and even the spaced out psychedelia of Dark Side-era Pink Floyd.
To flesh out the roar of Receivers, P&L's founding members Dan Friel (vocals, electronics) and BJ Warshaw (vocals, bass) recruited drummer Joe Wong and guitarist Sarah Lipstate. Wong's motorik style perfectly complements the band's bombastic drone with uniquely repetitive rhythms augmented by jaw-dropping, furious fills. Lipstate implements a noisy-yet-folky guitar technique tinged with experimental electronics, cassette tape manipulations, and bowed double-neck guitar. The addition of a full time guitarist allowed Friel to focus on his signature keyboard effects -- a unique 8-bit clarion call that remains the most recognizable element of this constantly evolving band -- and allowed the band to compose their most complex arrangements thus far. With the new lineup solidified, P&L wasted no time, heading straight to Wong's Milwaukee studio mere months after playing their first show as a quartet.
In April, Parts & Labor had an open call on their websites, looking for audio samples and field recordings submitted by friends and fans. The band posed a selection of questions to spur inspiration: "What do your parents sound like?" "What are you afraid of?" They received hundreds of sounds in return -- all manner of bleeps, conversations and crashes. In a gesture of inclusion, every sound received is used in some degree on the album, either within the chattering satellites whirring by in the aptly titled "Satellites" or during the final cacophony of noise that swallows the band during Receivers' final moments. The band's favorite sounds, however, were given special prominence as source material for the ambient interludes and collages that bridge the eight songs. It's a unique project that comments on information overload while also championing the democratic nature of working in an increasingly digital music business.
Lyrically, Receivers continues Parts & Labor's obsessions with technology gone sinister, post-industrial paranoia, and cultural divides. "Satellites" envisions surveillance machines growing bored watching humans and then hurling themselves into the sun. "Nowheres Nigh" and "Solemn Show World" meditate upon the seemingly endless homogeny of exurban American highways. However, the band's questions this time point more inwardly; these are less calls to arms than they are calls to self-improvement. For every pessimistic observation comes a positive declaration. Whether cheerleading the celebration of choice in "The Ceasing Now" or pronouncing a declaration of love during an apocalypse in "Wedding In A Wasteland", Parts & Labor's lyrics, like their music, seek stability within the chaos.