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Pree sounds like a band with just enough patience. On its latest record, Rima, the D.C. fourpiece refines its sunny experimental pop, which is detailed and deliberate yet bursting with energy and ideas that often feel a misstep away from spilling out of the band’s pockets.
Though not terribly inventive—the band’s pop-tinged math rock shares a fair number of similarities with yesterday’s music blog darlings, Givers and Maps & Atlases—the style requires patience and technicality that eludes many bands that attempt the same. Pree does it well.
Pree’s music is layered, with sonic ornaments hanging close together and occasionally crowding one another out. Buoyed by restless, spindly guitars and an enthusiastic rhythm section, the band bounces from idea to idea, rarely leaving time for listeners to catch their breath before launching into the next refrain.
Despite the lineup’s above-average indie rock musicianship, on display in more technically complex tracks like “Different Shores,” one element occasionally threatens to overshadow it all: May Tabol’s alto, which warbles high in the mix in the same indecipherable English popularized by Regina Spektor and tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus. Tabol’s voice colors the record and lends blander songs some needed character, but its omnipresence steps on some interesting riffs and melodies that are equally entitled to center stage. As hackneyed as instrumental solos can be, listeners may find themselves yearning for one on “Walk Right,” for instance.
Melodies occasionally amble and jostle too much for attention in the album’s more crowded songs. On “Maybe We’ll Row,” the band attempts to reconcile essentially different ideas into a lopsided, slightly bloated track. Here, the time change could be dropped and the licks could be clipped to focus and reign in the sonic sprawl.
These various detours often obscure the fact that Pree is a very talented pop band. Though the band intentionally opts out of repetitive, straightforward structures, when the group can’t help itself, the results are still fruitful. With the help of a few effects pedals on “Hello, Shadow,” the band updates a ’50s-influenced pop ballad with contemporary flourishes. Pree successfully coaxes a bit of brightness out of an otherwise inoffensive Mazzy Star soundalike track, “The Dog,” by watermarking the tune with shimmery faraway guitars, allowing the band to nod at influences rather than rip them off.
Rima is stronger as a collection of individual songs than it is as a full album. Packaged in small chunks, it’s interesting and bubbly, but after 30 minutes, the album flags and gets weighed down by its singular aesthetic.
The band is clearly dedicated to making music that ignores traditional pop structures, but not patient enough to clip the occasional loose sonic limbs that hang off of more cumbersome songs. Still, the members of Pree are intuitive enough in their songwriting that even when they let their impulses run amok, they still manage to get plenty right.
Pree plays the Black Cat on May 8.