Boomkat Product Review:
Pagoda is the working moniker for Michael Pitt, an actor best known for his role in Gus Van Sant's "Last Days". Long before he stumbled into a career of indie flick stardom (in films like Bully, The Dreamers and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things), Pitt was plying his trade as a songwriter. It was on the set of Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" that Pitt came to the attention of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon (both of whom were involved in the film themselves), with the actor performing his own songs as part of his role in the film as a suicidal Kurt Cobain-esque rockstar. Two of the songs featured on that soundtrack, 'Fetus' (sic) and 'Death To Birth' show up on this album. The latter sounds especially impressive here, away from the context of Last Days and the Cobain impersonations the part required the song sounds mournfully beautiful. Melodically, it's clearly preserved in a grunge time capsule yet there's something very distinctive and personal about Pitt's take on it, carried by poetic, beatnik sensibilities and an impassioned vocal that sets him apart from mere copyists. First Single, 'Lesson Learned' succeeds for the same reasons, and gives hints at the band's rockier impulses, which tap into Sonic Youth's own guitar abuse tendencies. Another key to the band's sound is the fact that they boast a cellist amongst their ranks who's clearly sympathetic to a bit of discord and noise, so rather than sounding like a tacked-on extra instrument, it's always an integral - often defining - element of Pagoda's sound. The album closer 'I Do' is the closest the band come to aligning themselves with Ecstatic Peace's more experimentally-minded acts, with fifteen minutes of Sabbath-influenced riffing, distorted strings and spoken word readings from Pitt's journal. Recommended.