Pile: All Fiction [Album Review]

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All Fiction
Exploding In Sound Records [2023]

The Fire Note headphone approved

Take a moment to remember everything that you know about Boston’s Pile. Ok, perfect, now forget all that. Pile has been making music solo since 2006 and as a band since 2009. Pile first caught our ear with 2013’s incredible Dripping (which was just remastered and re-released btw). Since then they’ve forged their own path of off-kilter, grinding guitar antics with three studio albums (more if you count their instrumental, b-side, and reworked song experiments) leading up to their eighth LP, All Fiction.

After 10 years of guitar, it sounds like this has been a long time coming. First of all, the band has gone down from four to three members. While on the podcast, Headliner Radio, Rick Maguire said he wanted to make a record like this since Dripping (2013) and even as soon as Green and Gray (2019) have some of these songs taken shape. Finally, Maguire in 2021 went on a solo tour with a synthesizer and reworked songs from the Pile catalog along with releasing the improvisational record In the Corners of a Sphere-Filled Room (2021). It was all this that pushed Pile and Maguire to even feel like they could attempt the idea of All Fiction. “It Comes Closer” doesn’t even let the listener remember the Pile that once was, the song broodingly slinks between stabby keys, ominous chords, and string malaise. Maguire’s “so it goes” vocals really punctuate the mood of the unknowing march forward and its inevitability. Straight from Maguire’s mouth, the first single, “Loops,” has the singer questioning everything. Speaking to northerntransmissions.com he says, “The song is about the confusion I’ve experienced in the place where those two roads meet, and reflecting on whether what I’m creating is for personal growth or for personal gain has ended up leading to more questions than answers.” “Link Arms” really shows Kris Kuss’ and his rhythmic value that he brings to the band. Pair that up with an orchestra and you have one of the album’s darkest and ominous tracks.

While the idea of this album was conceived in the early 2010s you can tell that at the time it was recorded, the pandemic left its mark. “Blood” gives big pandemic anthem vibes with a speedy and shrill riff while Maguire doom-croons about spinning out into the abyss. “Forgetting” is a perfect balance of pain and beauty. The song keeps dipping in and out of reserved ferocity punctuated by Kuss’ drums and orchestral swells. “Poisons” gives us one of the crunchier songs on the album. The song calls back to Era Valguaris with its’ spooky Queens swagger. “Nude With a Suitcase” goes militant with its’ machine gun drums but, as a sprawling epic the song comes at you in waves: pensive keys hum, guitars lumber out, and looping sparkle. 

As I scoured Pile’s bandcamp site I was alerted to a comment by user suffocation27. In the comment the word patiently is used. All Fiction is built on patience: the patience to conceive the album, the patience to write it, and the patience in execution and recording.  Putting their name on this as a studio album means this will be Pile’s most divisive album yet. With less of a reliance on the guitar the album swings for the fences with what it does have to work with. It’s that idea that makes All Fiction feel like it could spin apart at any moment. Yet, somehow the threesome holds it together. This is a big step forward by Pile and after a few listens I think you’ll see why. 

“It Comes Closer” / “Blood” / “Nude With A Suitcase”

Spirit Was / Jawbox / Viet Cong (Preoccupations)

Green And Gray (2019) / Odds And Ends (2018) / A Hairshirt Of Purpose (2017) / You’re Better Than This (2015) / Dripping (2013)

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Christopher Tahy
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