Georgia four-piece, Art Contest have further delved into their abstract, math-rock LP, Fit Pitcher with a highly stylized, meticulously edited visual analogue. The project came initially last year through Marching Banana Records as the first work to follow the band's evolution into a four piece after a former drummer departed to work with fellow Athens natives, Mothers. The change in personnel has precipitated into a slight shift in pacing but, for the most part, the band have stayed true to their heady, full-bodied math rock they've showcased in former releases-- 2014's Math Major and 2017's misleadingly titled 2 Songs.
Through both these LP's, the band have found themselves working through layered loops of guitar mazes at breakneck speed and producing memorable, distinctive songs. The latter's standout track,"Sports" serves as a great starting point for this period: brilliant riffs and strong attention to detail laying the frame work for surrealistically enthusiastic wordplay and one liners that don't necessarily translate on paper but are delivered with a conviction that makes them feel like you know exactly what they're saying. This is maybe the greatest success of Art Contest: they are able to, despite the animatronic nature of some of these time signature tinkering, scream and chant things like "He pitched it," or "re-dial / re-dial / dial tone," over and over and still make you feel like you get it.
Three years after Two Songs, these tools have been refurbished as the outfit return with their most cohesive, most conceptualized project to date. Fit Pitcher is a jam packed, neurotic study of communication and language that breaks down ideas like how we share experiences with others and the shortfalls of trying to use words to say how we feel. Similar to Radiohead's Kid A, Fit Pitcher finds frontman Cole Monroe mechanical, approximating emotion, computing urgency. The album feels like giving an alien a dictionary and watching it speak, emote, and communicate for the first time.
Beginning with the title, for example, we have a series of possibilities as to what a "fit pitcher" is. In the band's words, "'Fit Pitcher’ — one who pitches a fit, an ideal communicator, an in-shape sports player. Fit Pitcher is a practice of translating energy into focused expression. It is a celebration of calmness and collection found at the center point of purpose, like an eye of a storm formed at the meeting of its wild arms." Lyrics like "he picked up a large white vase and he pitched it," are delivered over tron-esque, ascending keyboard loops stumble into a vocal march something like vignettes but more sterile. There's a dryness in the lyrics foiled by the myriad of guitar runs and force pushed through in Monroe's vocals. Through this sort of deconstructed look on songwriting, they're able to explore ideas like the goal of communication, and a struggle to truly relay experiences and feelings through words.
This album is a perfect vehicle for a visual add-on and the finished video we have here really bolsters some of these themes, breathing new life into moments like Cole passively but full of focus in throwing water out of boat: is the boat sinking? Is he afraid? These visual analogues are able to effectively add new layers, all the time being superimposed under a shot of Monroe performing the album from various rooms in his apartment. It begins with him looking out an airplane window and finding the Atlanta skyline beneath: a mostly static image of the city that is objectively true but also tells you very little about Atlanta. This is to be a theme in the video as kind of a mirror of the lyrical pluralities. Later on, for instance, he goes to the University of Georgia football stadium but there's no game going on and no one is there. This presence is in front of him and he is 'there' but he's still just looking around, waiting for something to happen. He stands in anticipation on the side of the road until he calmly departs without ever being in conversation with this moment.
These events begin to evolve into a theme of Monroe showing us things we aren't really seeing in a meaningful way. There's a series of shots taken from a car window from a tight perspective. Trees, boats, and island life blurs by very quickly so as occasionally you can pick something out and say "oh he's on the island now," or "I think he took the plane to a tropical place," but the shot is purposefully too fast, too close, or too otherwise non-distinct. The subject is captured but not communicated.
The project matches the passion-project type feel evident in Fit Pitcher. The attention to detail seen in both audio and visual components of the album create a compelling two part narrative deserving of this extra step. In addition to this visual album, Art Contest has released a merch line with cassette tapes, CD's, and a USB drive containing the album all available through their Bandcamp page linked below.