Upon hearing the name Power Pill Fist you should be thinking one of two things: either a poor translation of some NES game item, or some drugged-out experimental tunes. The interesting thing is that with Kongmanivong, the second album from Ken Fec’s (Black Moth Super Rainbow) alter-ego, you get both. This is experimental electronic music that takes vintage video game sounds, douses them in layers of fuzzy distortion (think the motors in Excitebike), and then lays down some sleazy funk meets Kraftwerk beats underneath.
What’s interesting about Power Pill Fist is that unlike many noise-oriented electronic acts that lack any sense of melody, these scratchy buzz fests reside almost entirely within major key structures. Sure, the feedback itself is dissonant, but the blips, bleeps, and other samples here, like the soundtracks from `80s video games, are something that can actually get stuck in your head.
“YFF, Lou Pappans” starts the album off with a song that, if it weren’t for the lo-fi aesthetic and layers of sandpaper-rubbed atmosphere, could come banging in a DJ set between Justice and Daft Punk. “Vile” on the other hand takes the infamous digital alarm clock buzz and turns it into a beat. It might just remind you of that annoying college roommate whose daily alarms would wake up you three times before he even stirred, but with some added rippling bass and power-tool growl, you have yourself a glitchy jam.
Of course, with albums like Kongmanivong there is always the risk of dull, lengthy interludes, simply abrasive codas, and downright “what the fuck?” moments. For Power Pill Fist these dalliances unfortunately take up nearly half the record. “Fisticus 2:36” spends about (you guessed it) two minutes and thirty-six seconds sounding like someone didn’t plug an audio cable in all the way into a television, while “Chuckanut Drive” starts out sounding like a dance-party thrown by Mega Man -- complete with some squeaky knob-turning and a digitally crunchy beat -- before the last two and a half minutes of the song, and the entire followup, “Countours Gaining Sheep,” merely present an exercise in sustained drone and tiny puttering sounds. After that comes another missed one-two punch with “Bland Hand Stand” and “R4eactor.” The former hits a solid groove, but then runs it into the ground, never adding another layer of sound, while the latter merely sounds like holding your ear up to a seashell.
Kongmanivong may have its share of uninteresting moments, but when it gets things right it provides an original sound that can act as a serious and refreshing change of pace. Maybe it’s the familiar video game sounds subconsciously sparking nostalgia, or maybe it’s a testament to Ken Fec’s bizarre take on songwriting, but Power Pill Fist seem to make avant-garde accessible enough for those not well-versed in the noise and experimental realms.