Will Guthrie’s first People Pleaser album has been a staple the last few years. I am always interested in hearing artists in unexpected contexts and Guthrie, in exploring new paths, showed incredibly versatility and opened new possibilities at the same time. So, a new entry in this still unfolding, strange and interesting series is welcome news. Happily, People Pleaser Pt. II doesn’t disappoint. It’s even more dialed in and direct. Using an expansive, midnight-hued palette, Guthrie shatters
There’s something to teh way Guthrie reshapes and remixes his drum recordings, building them into bouncing lysergic romps that feel a million miles away the world of jazz and free improvisation. In 2021 alone he’s shredded abrasive missives like lava on Electric Rag (with Jean-Luc Guionett) and created sweltering atmosphers on Real Real World (with James Rushford), but People Pleaser Pt. II creates its own narrative, traipsing through eyes wide open.
Opener “GoldFingerz” is a weird banger, replete with hypnotizing vocal samples and eardrum-piercing tonal frequencies, all wrapped around propulsive rhythm. If someone made an instrumental hip-hop record at GRM, it might sound something like this. “EasternRiser” pairs thick, noise-infused synth drones with raucous hand drums, the dichotomy of which scythes through dark streets at high speed, changing direction at the blink of an eye. The frenetic energy is intoxicating.
It’s not all upbeat destroyers, though. Guthrie’s got a knack for using field recordings in unexpected, compelling ways. Even on one of the album’s true highlights, “NightCalla,” cryptic sounds, metallic whirring, and static bleed through like messages from the underworld and steal the show all while obscuring soft jazz dispatches that suddenly explode into similar zones as “GoldFinggerz.” Dizzying juxtapositions in such small spaces boggle the mind, but with Guthrie’s touch it all makes sense like on “KennyBlings,” where blown-out strings somehow bring harmony to the well-worn bass lines and scattered beats.
People Pleaser Pt. II isn’t all fun and games, though. In the descending frequencies and emotive piano repetitions of “Lucierr” is a feeling of staring in the mirror and not liking the reflection. In the solemnity, each percussive blast is another stone falling to pieces, that piano loop a needle straight through the heart. If “Lucierr” holds the needle, the excellently titled “CareerMoves” brings the electric drill straight through the skull. Muted heartbeat-like rhythms are masked by harsh electronic skree before exploding.
Will Guthrie continues to create these moments where anything seems possible and the ride is at least half the fun. Guthrie has become a must-hear artist for me. As his work continues to evolve, People Pleaser Pt. II should make a lot of people happy.
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