Local math-rock trio Persona Grata releases Frienemies CD this weekend | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Local math-rock trio Persona Grata releases Frienemies CD this weekend 

The alternating searing heat and cloudbursts may have hurt turnout at Art What You Got, the community-oriented art fest that debuted last Sunday in Polish Hill. But as vendors and artists protected their wares with tarps and plastic, Joy Ike treated those who resisted the elements to a polished set that ably combined elements of folk, Triple A pop and R&B.

Backing up the local singer-songwriter were musicians on djembe, drums and bass, creating strong rhythmic support for Ike's jazz-inflected piano and strong, sinuous vocals. If her earnest, up-with-people-type lyrics can seem a bit cloying at times, the positive attitude seems to have helped score her a busy schedule of performances in the Pittsburgh area, and praise for her recent full-length debut album, Good Morning.

You can catch Ike this weekend at the Market Square Water Balloon Fight (again with the water!) on Sat., July 26. The free event, which runs from 3-5 p.m., includes separate water-balloon fights for kids and adults, and performers including local indie rockers Thee Adora and DJs Omar Abdul and J. Malls.


Fans of the type of math rock proffered by Pittsburgh's Don Cab and Creta Bourzia should take note of newer blood exploring and expanding similar musical veins. That would be Persona Grata, a local trio consisting of Joe Kasler and Ben Hartranft (both trading off on guitar, bass and vocals) and Jeff "Pink" Shoemaker (drums and electronics). The band started in late 2006, when the three members laid to rest their previous instrumental band, Evergreen Movement.

Now, Persona Grata is releasing a CD entitled Frienemies on Sat., July 26, with a 9 p.m. show at Belvedere's, in Lawrenceville. Also on the bill are Red Team Blue Team and DJ Dickie Qwick.

Though the CD consists of only seven songs, clocking in at 26 minutes, the band displays a wide range of sounds as well as the genre-appropriate musical chops. In fact, if you compare the album's opening and closing tracks -- the guitar-heavy, punky "Nobot" and the trippy synth and electronics blowout "Electron Magnitude" -- it's hard to believe the same band made both.

In between, you'll find the collage of dance grooves that makes up "New Product," the Fugazi-esque dissonant noodling of "Building Up to Nothing," and my two favorites, the instrumentals "Exhibit A" and "Exhibit C." The two instrumentals seem to highlight the band's two poles: The driving, jagged guitars and odd-time grooves on "Exhibit A" show quite a contrast to the perky plinking on "Exhibit C," which wouldn't be out of place as a music bed for an evening news segment, or an episode of The Outer Limits. For more info, visit www.myspace.com/personagrata.



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