Pengo - a nervous splendor

The Wire

Dressed in a cover resembling those of the 60s French free jazz/experimental label BYG/Actuel, the second LP (and the debut release from their own Haoma Recordings imprint) from Rochester, New York based bohemian trio Pengo is a set of disjointed jams with additional sound samples that falls straight into the camp of No-Neck BLue Band, Jackie-O Motherfucker and Sunburned Hand of the Man. The group, made up of John Schoen, Jason Finkbeiner and Joe Tunis, cite influences like The Fugs, Sun City Girls, Nurse With Wound, Les Rallizes Denudes, Syd Barrett and the Quaaludes, but their music is much more down to earth and almost primal in its execution than that list might imply. Perhaps Pengo should have used the French ethnic recordings label Ocora as a cover motif rather than BYG/Actuel, as their sound more resembles ancient ritual music rather than anything even remotely associated with spiritual blowing.

Pengo summon up their ancestors through a series of electric guitar led jams peppered with found spoken word segments that loosely deal with finding God and hunting for Pokemon. This approach is best expressed on \"What Do You Mean, Idi Amin?\" which fills up the entire second side. Opening with what sounds like amplified cat purring, the track soon unfolds to usher in the sinister snarl of former Ugandan dictator and self appointed King of Scotland, Idi Amin. Around this monstrous presence Pengo unleash a crazed war whoop of pounding drums, electric strum, electronic gargle and flailing saxophone that is spiked with acid menace and apocalyptic threat. Here the group drill deep inside the damaged brain of a madman and send back their chilling report. Not since John Moran's opera The Manson Family has the disturbed personality of a mass murderer been so perfectly portrayed. A Nervous Splendor may not have had the big budget that Moran enjoyed on his project, but Pengo prove here that they are just as full of ideas for future shocks and surprises.

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