PINEROSS’ ‘DRAGOON’ IS SOUTHWESTERN ELECTROPOP CINEMA (PREMIERE)
By Jonathan Frahm. Originally published on Pop Matters
For nearly 15 years, Pineross has been a means for Kevin Larkin to express his feelings in avant-garde movements. Where his self-titled debut album explored themes of the dying Old West, Dragoon is an experimental indie pop examination of the modern Southwest. Courageous, harrowing, and invoked with an autumnal spirit, the latest Pineross effort, Dragoon, is another natural extension of Larkin. It showcases his current state of mind as an artist whose pandemic story brought him to write songs along an Arizona mountainside.
Pineross tells PopMatters, “This is the third Pineross LP I’ve released over the past 14 years, and they have all emerged during big transitions in my life—mostly when moving to a new place. I think of each album as a very personal exploration of creativity, more focused on the studio process as opposed to a live project. I always meet new collaborators when recording, and the music takes on the feel of the place it was recorded – each has felt like a ‘concept album’ that way.”
“For the new album, I had written a few songs during the pandemic in the Dragoon mountains of Southern Arizona. Being new to the area, I was deeply affected by the beauty of the desert and the underlying sadness of the thousands of migrants who walk through it every year in search of a better life. It is a stunningly beautiful place, one of the most biodiverse regions in the country. Underneath it, all is a long history of violence.”
Larkin weaves this latest Pineross story by no conventional means. The opening track, “Forgotten Angle”, meditates on its unifying chorus (“we can’t exist alone”). Its ambling vibe exists within the space between Ennio Morricone and Andrew Bird, invoking a cinematic culmination of organic instruments that begin to invoke subtle, whirring electronic breakbeats at its midway point.
Pineross continues to showcase a penchant for offbeat musical expression through the electropop of “Any Color” and its stellar keyboard solo, as well as the titular “Dragoon” and its ambient exploration of soul, surf, and electronic tones. It all comes together with the closing ballad “I Can Still Remember”, offering another stirring meditation as electronic percussion crackles around Larkin’s ruminative vocal cadence and a gorgeous piano forefront.
Pineross continues, “The songs that I had written really fit in well with a collection of unreleased soundtrack music that I had laying around from a few years ago. One day I wrote all of the titles down, and it was immediately clear that there was an album there—everything was in the right order with key changes, transitions, and the arc of a story. Then I knew it was time to start recording!”
Pineross shares a ticket with Desert Fantasy as they both celebrate their album releases at Tucson’s Club Congress on 21 September. Pineross will be joined by Red Herring Puppets, who will play an integral part in his visual performance by offering projections and shadow puppetry to the show.
Reflecting on the relationship between Dragoon and puppetry, Pineross says, “Lisa Sturz from Red Herring Puppets was one of the first artists that I met after moving to Tucson. Over the past few years, I have arranged and produced the music for a handful of their shows, and I always knew that I wanted to make a music video with her. She suggested participating in one of their Puppet Slams where I would sing a song, and she would puppeteer.”
“We ended up creating a shadow puppet series for a few songs on the album—a story of migrants crossing the border for a better life while facing incomprehensible challenges. Puppets have a really powerful aesthetic; they add an element of softness and whimsy to stories with heavy subject matter. Throughout human history, they have helped us find joy in times of struggle. We’ll perform for the album release and then put out the music video version sometime in the next few months.”
This article originally appeared in Pop Matters.