The Arty Semite

Obama Without, Great Music Within

By Ezra Glinter

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Courtesy Pitom

As their name suggests, Pitom comes on suddenly. On Wednesday night, while pedestrians clustered outside a grungy Lower East Side dive bar ogling President Obama’s motorcade on its way to and from Anna Wintour’s hush-hush fundraiser, the raucous four-piece band took the stage inside and delivered a far more exciting show.

Following the always-delightful Xylopholks, guitarist Yoshie Fruchter and his musicians-in-arms took the stage at The Local 269 and played an intense single set that left the audience stunned. Along with Fruchter, whose sinewy guitar work forms the visual as well as sonic center of the band, Pitom is comprised of violinist Jeremy Brown, bassist Shanir Blumenkranz and drummer Kevin Zubek, phenomenal musicians all.

While more staid listeners might find Pitom’s deeply immersive instrumental music abrasive, its roughness is invigorating rather than jarring. They hardly hold back on the volume, yet each instrument comes across clear, even on a rudimentary barroom sound system.

Brown’s violin, in particular, gives Pitom a unique sensibility that distinguishes them from other avant-rock noise outfits. While the fiddle may not seem compatible at first blush with an all-out guitar-bass-drum combo, Brown’s fiery playing perfectly complements his bandmates’ intelligent turmoil.

Indeed, with the violin and a penchant for off-road musical modes, Pitom sounds something like a cross between indie darlings Camper Van Beethoven and Scottish post-rock sensation Mogwai. Of course, there are many more ingredients in the mix (Frank Zappa, Sonic Youth, King Crimson), and any reductive description can hardly quantify the experience of full aural immersion.

Fortunately for those at the show, full Pitom immersion is exactly what they got. Unlike the band’s 2008 self-titled debut album, which featured a number of more subdued, meandering songs, Wednesday’s performance was a no-holds-barred energy fest.

All of which bodes well for the band’s forthcoming album, scheduled to appear early in 2011. Whether their hard driving show presages a more thoroughly aggressive record is hard to say. Maybe it was the Presidential apprehension in the air, or the pent-up excitation of a hot summer night, or just the soaked-in beer smell of the bar that brought out the more primal parts of an already wrenching band. But wherever Pitom’s energy came from, it was sudden and it was strong.

Watch Pitom play at the Atlantique Jazz Festival in 2009:


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