Black Pumas: Black Pumas

Album Review BY BRIAN MCGRATH

The Black Pumas sounds like a band name coined at the twilight of the soul era, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, which is not, coincidentally, the period the Austin-based duo of guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada and vocalist Eric Burton consciously conjure on their debut. Possessing a voice that can slide into the slipstream with ease, Burton lends an elegant elasticity to Quesada’s tightly layered productions. Occasionally, the producer/guitarist performed this trick in reverse—“Sweet Conversations,” the album’s dreamy denouement, draws upon a demo Burton recorded at home—but the core of the album lies in how the singer helps shape aural paintings into songs, providing them with warmth and a slight trace of spaciness. Burton may command attention with his sweet, plaintive voice, but Quesada’s densely woven tapestries are the key to Black Pumas, relying on scratchy drum loops, hits of strings, funky electronic pianos and fuzz guitar. The minor-key match “Fire” gains gravity from its blend of ghostly organs and guitar twang. “Stay Gold” shimmers with the sultriness of a heat wave, and “Black Moon Rising” unfurls with a hushed sense of spectacle. While there may be pleasure in such a patchwork of sound, particularly when it’s done with such style and verve, the assemblage bears a pointed sense of insularity. Unlike the icons of the era they find so inspiring, Black Pumas rarely look outside of themselves.

Black Pumas
Black Pumas
ATO