[Review/Listen] – Puscifer – “Conditions Of My Parole”

I have a confession to make. I am a huge fan of Tool, A Perfect Circle and all things Maynard James Keenan. HUGE. That being said, I can already see your cursor poised over the Back button, ready to click, but WAIT, hear me out. Puscifer (puss-if-her) is a horse of a different color and shouldn’t be grouped together with Maynard’s other creative accomplishments. Puscifer’s music isn’t intimidating, like Tool can be, nor is it painfully introspective, like A Perfect Circle. Instead, “Conditions Of My Parole” is the most listener-friendly of Maynard’s offerings to date. It is a complete 180 from any of his previous work (including the first Puscifer album, “V is for Vagina”) and he is inspiring in his evolution and growth. Which is why, despite it’s October 2011 release, I feel compelled to shine the spotlight on it now. This album did not get the recognition or exposure that it deserves, and it is very deserving.

Recorded amidst the wine casks at Caduceus Cellars, Maynards’ winery, this album sounds just like the surrounding Arizona landscape that he calls home. “Musically, it’s like Twin Peaks in the desert” Keenan told SPIN Magazine, and honestly, I don’t think I could describe it any better myself. The album is full of wide open spaces, mirroring the vastness of the desert sky and sands. The music soars, giving it an atmospheric, airy feel that has an element of eerie to it. What keeps it from being downright spooky is Maynards’ honeyed tones, taking you from dusty desert floor to dizzying mountain top.

According to Maynard, this venture of his is “the space where my Id, Ego and Anima all come together to exchange cookie recipes”. I’m not sure if it’s because of all the digging in the dirt that Maynard’s done, in his wine-making endeavors, but those voices of his appear to be of a distinctly feminine nature. Puscifer’s music is earthy, sensual, it oozes She. This album breathes; it has a heartbeat. It takes you in its arms and rocks you, from beginning to end. Like being in the womb; warm, enveloping, nurturing. There is nothing rushed about this music. Every note is heard, experienced, soaked up. You will take it in, as it takes you in.

While this could be considered Maynard’s solo project, as he writes and composes all the music himself, it could not be carried off so successfully without the revolving door of musicians he has accompany him on his various Puscifer projects. The cast of 16, this time around, includes Tim Alexander (Primus), Mat Mitchell (APC, NIN) and even Maynard’s own son, Devo, on cello. The chanteuse du-jour, British singer/songwriter Carina Round, provides the perfect accompaniment to Maynard’s own angelic voice. She has a haunting, heart breaking quality that compliments the album so very well. Specifically, listen to the last track, “Tumbleweed”. Even the banjo seems to sing with her.

Surprisingly, Keenans’ latest album does not appear to be about the lyrics he’s so well known for (or if it is, I have yet to crack the code). That’s not to say there isn’t wisdom to be gleaned here;

‘The more you take, the more you need / The more you suck, the more you bleed / The dead know better, so listen to the letter / The more you suck, the more you bleed’,

so says Maynard, in “Telling Ghosts”. This time though, I think it’s about the music. It’s about where it takes you and how it makes you feel.  Maynard keeps digging deep, pushing past his own boundaries, and we are the richer for it. “Conditions Of My Parole” is an album to be listened to in it’s entirety, to fully appreciate it’s ebb and flow, but leave your expectations at the door. Maynard’s mind is an interesting ride, and well worth the price of admission. Stream the album below and, if you’re interested in hearing some of their earlier work, you can listen to the large collection of remixes on the band’s website.

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