Halloween is eerie. Full of creatures that go ‘o0o0o’ in the night, giving you chills, leaving you on edge but wide-eyed with suspense and, at times, truly spooked. So too, is Palberta’s first album. First tape released by OSR, Feeding Tube Records re-issued My Pal Berta digitally and for the first time on vinyl in time for this Halloween. Like mischievous children creeping around on tip-toes, Lily, Ani, and Nina’s playful experimentation on My Pal Berta leaves you unsettled. The album is rife with dry but droning guitar tones that nip at your eardrums. Their voices shriek from a distance, oscillating between sweet and scary.
The re-release of My Pal Berta came just weeks after the band self-released their second album, Shitheads in the Ditch. Both were recorded to tape by Paco Carthcart (of Big Neck Police) and are, without a doubt, signature Palberta, which is to say absurdist and creaking. Full of herky-jerky structures, you never know when their playfulness will turn against you. It’s like the auditory equivalent of a claws-out game of cat and mouse played on top of a polyphonic chalkboard.
Instead of Shitheads’ whirlwind cadence, full of sudden cuts that leave you reeling within the same song, My Pal Berta’s highs and lows come between tracks that build rough tones and ghoulish laughter at their own creeping pace. With buoyed murmurs, their distinct, discordant melodies start to haunt you; earworms you don’t notice until they’ve already penetrated your Blood Brain Barrier.
The guitar’s soaring drone on “Hair’s Gonna Grow” builds and bends in circles. Disturbing vocals swirl around, taunting the listener about her screwed up hair cut like a ghoulish clique cornering some poor soul in the girl’s room. The full fade-in on”Anyway” at first makes it sound like a child calling from the bottom of a well, except as the panic in the voice builds louder and more frantic, the single lyric repeats its indifferent message over and over, begging the question is this a fun game or a sadistic trick?
“Ode to Gabe” sounds like an incantation or voodoo spell being cast on the song’s subject, full of giddy giggling and squeals that add texture to the song, as the high-pitched whispers “Gonna get high tonight” repeat between breathy harmonies and a doomy bass groove. By the end of the album, “Foot Tapping” sounds like your final psychotic break, chittering lyrics about grocery stores peak out over layered barks and echoing screams that leave you in actual goosebumps.
My Pal Berta‘s magic is in its playfulness that isn’t precious, but instead creepy as hell. Like a big smile on someone with their eyes-rolled back in their head, you can’t tell if it’s funny or you are being fucked with, which is precisely what keeps you listening.