Dwelling is the title of the debut album by Pecas, the nom de dream pop of Sandy Davis, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer known to the New Paltz area as the former bassist of Breakfast in Fur and as a member of such (bygone?) indie-pop standouts as Young Neighbors and Dr. Awesome. While the title would seem to refer to the New Paltz-area farmhouse sketched on the CD’s back cover, the ambiguities and subtleties of the word “dwelling” serve the music of Pecas extremely well. The verb “to dwell” is stationary but not static. It implies action in place: a welling motion and emotion within a fixed enclosure. To dwell is to linger, accumulate and intensify as an act of intention or of deepening obsession.
These eight songs dwell and linger like nobody’s business, but they move, cycle and develop constantly, growing gradually in lush ambiance like flora in a Petri dish. Davis gently tends to single ideas and lively, animated musical patterns until they blossom in place into countermelodies and flourishes of polyrhythm and harmony: dreamy, yes, from beginning to end, but driven with great underground subtlety and worldbeat buoyancy by various notable local drummers (Davis handles most of the other instruments by herself). The delightful “All I’ve Got” and “Taming a Human” feature subtle Afropop inflections. “Dear Ghost” moves like haunted jazz. “Keeper” and the schiz-waltzy “Nowhere” are both among the slowest songs here, and also the hardest-rocking. Pecas has never sounded quite so light on its feet.
Davis delivers her grade-A earworm melodies in a wispy multitracked voice that turns out to be surprisingly stout amidst all the layers of dream and dwell, the heavily effected guitars, pianos, xylophones and the enveloping reverb that heightens everything. As anyone who has ever cranked the mix knob on a reverb unit knows, the sound is seductive but the risk of ambient hangover is great, over-dwelling and the musical mush that it creates. In her role as producer and engineer, Davis handles that fine line expertly; the immersive dream ambiance never falters, but never quite swallows the music either.
And the lyrics – yes, they dwell too, on themes of ambivalence, identity confusion and the blurring boundaries of selves awash in relationships. Standing out amidst the crafty blur of Davis’ watery lyrics is the absolute gem of “All I’ve Got,” a tipsy song about acquiescing to the accidents of love, and one that you will want to sing to someone special right away.
Dwelling is pretty close to a true solo album (and a wildly impressive one at that), but when Davis debuts the CD at Market Market in Rosendale on Saturday, November 22, she will introduce the Pecas live lineup: a six-piece ensemble drawn, in part, from the notable producer Kevin McMahon’s supersized indie supergroup Pelican Movement, of which Davis is a member. The nationally known, McMahon-produced group Widowspeak is on the bill, as is Kate Larson’s terrific auto-bio-pop duo Guilt Mountain.
Pecas CD release show with Widsowspeak & Guilt Mountain, Saturday, November 22, 10 p.m., Market Market, 1 Madeline Lane, Rosendale; www.marketmarketcafe.com.