(Thrill Jockey)

Chicago trio Pit Er Pat's last two albums, Shakey and Pyramids, sound awkward, tentative, and full of dull melodies and stilted vocal performances—anemic postrock that's unbecoming of the usually outstanding Thrill Jockey stable. So expectations were low for High Time. Happily, though, Pit Er Pat (Rob Doran, Fay Davis-Jeffers, and Butchy Fuego) have vastly improved in the last two years.

What happened? Quick answer: Pit Er Pat embraced dub's deep, nuanced bass-and-drum interplay and incorporated THC-laced space into their compositions. They also made their vocals more palatable. High Time, while not the party record that its title implies, offers the refined pleasure of simpatico musicians laying down precise, intricate rhythms beneath melodies that move you without being pushy about it.

Beyond that, Pit Er Pat have introduced several instruments into the mix—cuica, agogo bells, shakers, kalimba, timbale, and many other things typically not seen in credits of indie-rock releases—adding much-needed roughage and humidity to their previously pasty, dry sound. Rather than put these to gimmicky use, though, Pit Er Pat use them sparingly and tastefully.

Support The Stranger

High Time's first two-thirds revels in an eerie, gothic strain of dub—what a ganja-enhanced studio session between Blonde Redhead and the great 4AD band Dif Juz or the Eternals would sound like. However, the disc's last three tracks take the album into even more interesting territory. "Creation Stepper" wields weirdly tuned xylophone amid Davis-Jeffers's mantric chants; Doran's rapid, Cecil McBee–like bass tones; and exotic metallic percussion. "Trad-A-Long" is a strange blend of industrial klang and tropical sway, while "The Good Morning Song" threads a gorgeous melody reminiscent of "Willow's Song" (from The Wicker Man soundtrack) over a gamelan that could've been conducted by My Bloody Valentine. Authorities at the Music Categorization Association will not know what to call this stuff. recommended

Pit Er Pat perform Fri Nov 21, Vera Project, 7:30 pm, $8, all ages. With Lucky Dragons, Hecuba.