If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you may be familiar with Pfarmers, the experimental pop project featuring Menomena and Lacktherof‘s Danny Seim, The National‘s Bryan Devendorf and David Nelson, who has had stints in the touring bands for David Byrne and St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens. The project can trace its origins to when The National and Menomena toured together during the early 2000s, and as a result of being around each other and running into each other a lot, Seim and Devendorf became friends. At one point, while both Seim and Devendorf were playing with their primary projects at a festival, Devendorf pulled Seim aside and played his fiend a series of severely damaged synth-based drumbeats he had been working on with David Nelson, who at the time had been part of the horn section of David Byrne’s touring band. Seim was so intrigued by what Devendorf and Nelson had come up with that he immediately joined the project, which released their moody and atmospheric, full-length debut Gunnera last year.
Pfarmers’ sophomore effort Our Purim was written as Seim relocated from his hometown of Portland, OR to Louisville, KY. Initially wanting to make the album’s material conceptually about Oregon, where he had spent the majority of his life, he chose to focus on the Rajneeshpuram community of Wasco County, OR he had learned about as a child. As an adult, he recognized the tragic nature of their story and as a result of contemporary events, began to find himself relating to members of the religious community in a different fashion than he had imagined. And much of the material began to be written from the perspective of a Rajneeshee leaving the compound — forever. Interestingly, it wasn’t until he had finished the album that he also realized that the album also managed to cover what he subconsciously felt was his own exodus from the only home he had known up until recently. As a result, the material has a deeper, personal feel.
Now, you might remember that I recently wrote about the album’s first single “Red Vermin,” a single that had the trio pairing gently undulating synths, industrial electronic-like drums, twinkling keys and plaintive yet ethereal vocals that describe the sensation of being ridiculed for one’s beliefs and outcasted with a profound sense of empathy — so much so that you can actually feel the sting of the insults hurled at the song’s narrator as though you were there. Of course, that track continued to further cement the trio’s reputation for crafting weird and cinematic pop that’s actually quite accessible. Interestingly, the album’s latest single and album title track “Our Puram,” has a narrator, who describes the sense of ecstasy and belonging that members of the Rajneeshpuram community felt and the gaping sense of dejection and hopelessness when they were forced to return to what they felt were dreary, ordinary, meaningless lives. While sonically, the trio pair distorted four-on-the-floor-like breakbeats, layers of wobbling and distorted synths, twinkling keys, distorted and droning guitar chords and mournful horn notes held together with a motorik-like groove that builds up towards the song’s last half/last third or so. It’s arguably the trio’s most mournful song but paired with one of the deepest and trippiest grooves they’ve released to date, while retaining a cinematic quality.
The recently released video features found footage that provides an intimate peek into the daily lives and practices of the Rajneeshpuram community and it gives the song a deeper, empathetic feel as it reminds the viewer and the listener of the subject’s essential humanity.