Don DeLillo's 1985 novel White Noise concludes with crowds gathering nightly to watch the sunsets in their little college town -- in the aftermath of a mysterious environmental disaster, "the sunsets had become almost unbearably beautiful." That scene inevitably comes to mind when I see one of Pittsburgh's garish particulate sunsets. And those neon pinks, purples and blues seem echoed in the fantastical cover art of Dreamscape, the new album by Gil Mantera's Party Dream. We're living in a weird 1980s future, and nobody knows that better than Gil.
It's certainly a new era for the Party Dream, the Rust Belt fave that formed in Youngstown in 1999 as a goofy lo-fi dance duo of brothers Gil Mantera and Ultimate Donny. The band now boasts an expanded lineup, with the addition of live drums -- Pittsburgh's Tony Paterra, of Zombi and Ohmu.
Last March, "Gil called me up about adding a live drummer to the show," recalls Paterra, who'd shared bills with the Party Dream over the years. "I love touring and playing out of town as much as I can," he says, and "they're at a point where we can sell out 400-capacity venues in major cities, with no problem." After a couple of quiet years off the road, it's a busy time for Paterra: Zombi's just released Spirit Animal on Relapse Records, and plans some European dates and a few U.S. shows in May; and Paterra is releasing a solo album under the name Majeure, "a heavier synth branch-off from what Zombi has been doing."
Paterra also engineered and produced the Party Dream's Dreamscape, with the goal of making it "as cheaply as we could," and quickly recouping the costs. After releasing its 2006 album Bloodsongs, on Audio Eagle Records, the band has returned to recording and independently releasing its own music, and is changing up its sound as well.
"The band, in the past, has written a lot of quirky, fun songs, and now we're trying for something a little more serious," says Paterra. Or, as the album's third track says, "Get Sirius." The track combines epic synths with the vocodered lyrics, "And when the sun stands still, we'll have our day / And light the fire to burn it all away / The Golden Dawn shines on in a sharpened knife / A man is born to live another life."
There's still plenty of humor below the surface, and the band has added a new wallop to its sound, without making it too slick. "The Only One" offers the sparse, bouncy synth hooks of early Prince, while "Ballerina" would fit nicely on the Miami Vice soundtrack with its moody synths and screaming electric guitar leads.
The Party Dream's Sat., March 7, show at 31st Street Pub (organized by CP contributor Manny Theiner) is its first Pittsburgh performance in more than a year, and the band's already planning another record for release in the fall. The goal is to keep cranking it out, says Paterra, "in this day and age, when people just want more and more." And in an age when the Party Dream's future, and best era, seems upon us. So gather 'round.
Gil Mantera's Party Dream with Brainbow, American Jobs and DJ Richard. 9 p.m. Sat., March 7. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $8. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com