The word together implies the combination of parts — and the third full-length from Philadelphia’s Pattern Is Movement, All Together, perfectly represents that which its title suggests.
There are many pieces in play here, and band members Andrew Thiboldeaux and Chris Ward audibly have fun breaking them down and arranging them. There are layers upon layers of vocals and instruments, and they miss each other as often as they intersect. One could possibly compare them to avant poppers like Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors or Fiery Furnaces, but not because they sound exactly like them as much as they seem to embrace a similar creative philosophy with highly unique results. They’ve been labeled “Math Rock” before, but it’s an oddly fitting tag since, in recent examples, it implies a heavier, more immediate and overwhelming sound, owing more to progressive rock and metal than anything Pattern Is Movement has created, particularly on this album.
Apparently, both Thiboldeaux and Ward have classical training, and on All Together it shows in the instruments they use and the timbres they create. The keyboard parts are occasionally reminiscent of Debussy, especially when combined with the occasional oboe and violin accompaniment (and when they don’t sound like Debussy, they often sound like BartÃ³k). Throw in some guitar and some drums, and you’ve got impressionism meets contemporary rock and pop.
All Together often sounds like the dueling — and reconciliation — of two different parts, in several pairs. There’s the aforementioned classical and modern textures, and in direct relation is the contrast of airy pop to aggressive drums and guitar. Many have remarked on the billing of Thiboldeaux and Ward as “beauty” (Thiboldeaux) and “beast” (Ward) in the credits, for it’s an apropos simile for the way the music blends. But it’s not as simple as a divide between the two members, because there’s conflict even within the lyrics and singing, all up to Thiboldeaux. Though he possesses a sweet and tender voice, he’s not always saying sweet and tender things. In “Peach Trees,” he tells his adored, “Wish that I could kill your father / that’d be fun.” Even just the lyrics sound like pieces puzzled together. At points it sounds like he drops a thought or a sentence and takes up something new (though the downside of all of the layering is that he’s occasionally hard to decipher).
Beyond its uniqueness, what strikes about this album is how well Thiboldeaux and Ward blend all of these elements. By all means, these are components that, in less skilled hands, would be a muddled mess. Yet the final result sounds almost effortless. All Together is a harmonious union, indeed.