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Julie Peel  (Québec)

Near the Sun  (2009,  45.16)  **½

Near the Sun is a rather wispy singer-songwriter effort, probably at its best on the fragile, harmonica-driven OK and bonus track Broken. Peel is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, but the flutes on The Piece Of My Heart and the title track are clearly bogus.

Peixe: Avião  (Portugal)

40.02  (2008,  40.02)  **

Peixe: Avião are Portugal's entrant in the crummy post-rock/pop stakes, a.k.a. the 'who can sound most like bad Radiohead' 3.30 at Aintree. Their debut, the wittily-titled 2008's 40.02 (spot the disc length), slowly drained my spirit, leaving me an empty, shattered husk. Luckily, I got better. The only track of any interest here is Barbitúrica Luz, arranged, in doo-wop fashion, for multiple voices, everything else being the most tiresome, sub-Coldplay dross imaginable. Someone adds bland fakeotron flutes to two tracks, with major parts on Camaleão and Atiro Ao Alvo, which do little to improve matters. I can't imagine why anyone outside the band's indie-kid fanbase in their own country would want to hear this. I wish I hadn't.

Pelican  (US)

Forever Becoming  (2013,  50.16)  ***

The trouble with playing your entire set tuned down to B is that, after a while, it all sounds a bit samey, something I've noticed with other downtuned metal acts over the years. Forever Becoming is one-up on many of its competitors due to being instrumental (so no silly vocalising), but variety is somewhat lacking; closer Perpetual Dawn is probably the nearest any of it gets to 'melodic'. Chris Common's Mellotron? Entirely inaudible.

Piero Pelú  (Italy)

In Faccia  (2006,  38.30)  ***

After a lengthy career with Italian stars Litfiba, Piero Pelú went solo in 2000, In Faccia being his fifth release. Far rockier than I'd expected, it's at its best on Sorella Notte and Segni 'N Faccia, although its acoustic material fares less well. Celso Valli's Mellotron? Presumably the vaguely choral or stringy things on a couple of tracks.

Michelle Penn  (US)

2 Good 4 U  (2001,  37.50)  **½

Michelle Penn's 2 Good 4 U (irritating txtspk-style title and all) consists largely of lightweight Americana, with the occasional burst of energy, at its best on its more upbeat material, notably Hollywood and Want Me. Brandon Bush is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on Want Me and I Will fail the authenticity test.

La Pentola di Papin  (Italy)

Zero-7  (1977,  35.57)  ***½

Italian proggers La Pentola di Papin's lone release, Zero-7, sounds curiously dated for 1977, almost to the point of being a late-period psych album, making me wonder whether it might've been recorded earlier. At its best on nine-minute opener Introduzione, this is a very listenable effort, albeit one lacking the highlights of, say, the likes of Quella Vecchia Locanda, let alone Banco or PFM. Although keys man Ferry Bettini is credited with 'Melotron', the inner gatefold's track-by-track credits make no mention of it, probably because it isn't there. Oh well, makes a change from the usual German fakery.

Pepe Deluxé  (Finland)

Spare Time Machine  (2007,  46.06)  ***½
Queen of the Wave  (2012,  48.08)  ***

Formed in the mid-'90s, Pepe Deluxé were the electronica duo of Vellu Maurola and Tomi Paajanen, or DJ Slow and JA-Jazz, although by their third album (minus Maurola), 2007's Spare Time Machine (ho ho), they had become the nearest I've heard in years to an original psych outfit. Influences range from soul (opener The Mischief Of Cloud Six) through a psych/electronica combo (Ms. Wilhelmina And Her Hat, several others) to that just-pre-psych style that you hear in the party scene in slightly clueless '60s films. There are more ideas here than even a couple of plays can properly assimilate; suffice to say, while it isn't all great, there should be enough here to keep you guessing for a while. Ville Riippa apparently plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, with a few seconds of strings on Lucky The Blind Vs. Vacuum Cleaning Monster and a major Chamby string part, plus flute on Captain Carter's Fathoms (seemingly based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars), all seemingly sampled. Five years on, Queen of the Wave is, somehow, rather less appealing. Less variety? Not sure, but the band have changed in the interim and not towards my taste. Better tracks include mid-'60s-esque opener Queenswave, the energetic Go Supersonic and the skronky electronica of Grave Prophecy, but the band have clearly shifted towards the early '60s in their influence base and away from psych. Pity. Paul Malmström is credited with Mellotron, but I'd love to know where; are those Mellotron strings on Go Supersonic?

Perfect Blue Sky  (Sweden)

Emerald  (2015,  61.15)  ***½

Perfect Blue Sky are the duo of guitarist Pna Andersson and Australian vocalist Jane Kitto, plus a plethora of guests on 2015's Emerald. Their MO is psychedelia, followed by more psychedelia, influences including, let's see, Jefferson Airplane, the acoustic end of Led Zeppelin, the electric end of CSN&Y... I think you get the idea. Picking out highlights is difficult; the tracks tend to merge together, if not physically, then stylistically, but opener Phoenix Starlight sets out their stall, Rock & A Tide shows their rockier side and Solomon typifies the lengthy, jammed-out end of their sound. Andersson plays samplotron, with a ghostly flute line in Aquaria.

Perihelion Ship  (Finland)

A Rare Thunderstorm in Spring  (2016,  51.22)  ***½

Perihelion Ship's debut combines metal and progressive rock in a way which suggests that early Opeth should have begun using keyboards (and '70s ones at that) a great deal earlier. The end result is a rather good heavy progressive album, keyboards integrated in a way that shows the band really understand their use, unfortunately rather spoilt by Andreas Hammer's 'cookie monster' vocals; it's a huge relief when he sings normally on Fool Of White Antlers. Highlights? It's pretty much all good (with a caveat for the vocals), but the ambitious, twenty-minute title track possibly pips the rest to the post. I'm afraid, however, Jani Konttinen's 'Mellotron' (heard in its solo glory at the beginning of the album)... isn't.

Perishers  (Sweden)

Let There Be Morning  (2005,  40.44)  **

The Perishers are apparently 'alternative'. To what? This kind of listless indie nonsense can only be an alternative to interesting, well-crafted music, to the point where a song as bland as Still Here sounds reasonably good. Måns Lundberg's 'Mellotron'? Is that the strings on Still Here?

Lee Perk  (Spain)

Lee Perk  (2013,  34.19)  **½

Spanish indie/Americana, anyone? Lee Perk's English-language eponymous release mixes those two genres with a first-time-round rock'n'roll sensibility, slapback echo and all, although I'm not at all sure the combo really works. He credits himself with Mellotron, but the brass on Born To Be Free, obviously sampled strings on Above Other Things and Guardian and flutes on The New Aguilas disagree.

Rain Perry  (US)

Cinderblock Bookshelves  (2008,  48.05)  ***½

What is that indefinable quality that makes one singer-songwriter speak to the listener and another sound like a whining idiot? Whatever it is, Rain Perry has the former, Cinderblock Bookshelves being full of material of the quality of the title track, Girl In The Boy's Room and Many Moons Of You, featuring Perry singing over a solo double bass. Producer Mark Hallman's credited with Chamberlin, but if it's supposed to be the flutes on Eliza On The Car Tour (and Thank You?), I suspect not.

Persephone's Dream  (US)

Pan: An Urban Pastoral  (2010,  68.46)  ***

Persephone's Dream formed as far back as 1993, 2010's Pan: An Urban Pastoral being their fifth release. It's one long concept piece, a hugely ambitious effort that brings in elements of progressive metal, symphonic prog, prog folk and film music, amongst others. Is it any good? It has many good moments, although its sheer length (as with so many similar) counts against it in places. The band seem to have a slight originality issue, too, although the ancient adage that 'there's nothing new under the sun' certainly applies to most modern prog; Jim Waugaman has written to tell me that the 'quotes' were quite deliberate, in a Fireballet vein, although I'm not convinced that band were 'knowingly' quoting, as against simply ripping off... More obvious quotes include The Seduction Of Daphnis, which entirely unintentionally cops a chord sequence from Führs & Fröhling's beautiful Ammerland, Youth's Denial starts like a dead ringer for UK and The Temptation Of Icarus features a direct quote from Gentle Giant's The House, The Street, The Room, although I'm told I missed organist/composer Jehan Alain's Trois Danses 'Joi' (in fairness, I'd never previously heard of him) on Maenads, Melody And Meter.

Jim Waugaman's 'Mellotron' strings on The Tears Of Selene and Erato's Pulse and the strings and flutes on Silhouette are confirmed samples; nice to know I'm right sometimes... If Persephone's Dream could make slightly more concise albums, I'd probably give them a higher rating; this is very good in parts, but rather indigestible as a whole, which presumably makes it a curate's egg. Sadly, that's unlikely to happen, as the band split after the album's release, unless the guitarist chooses to resurrect the same for a jamband. Let's hope not.

Nina Persson  (Sweden)

Animal Heart  (2014,  40.30)  **½

After a twenty-year career with The Cardigans, 2014's Animal Heart is Nina Persson's first solo album, consisting chiefly of differing flavours of electro-pop, with an unexpected pre-psych '60s influence intruding here and there (The Grand Destruction Game, Silver) and even a wistful piano ballad (closer This Is Heavy Metal). Sadly, however, the overall effect is rather lesser than that of any one track in isolation. Someone (Persson herself? Husband Nathan Larson?) adds background Mellotron string samples to Forgot To Tell You, to no particular effect. Cardigans fans may like this (no promises), although I doubt whether the rest of us will gain much from it.

Jorge Pescara  (Brazil)

Grooves in the Temple  (2005,  60.37)  ***
Knight Without Armour  (2012,  40.04)  ***½

Brazilian ninja jazz bassist Jorge Pescara's albums are most likely chiefly appeal to, er, jazz bassists, preferably ninja ones, although I'm sure plenty of non-bass playing jazz fans (ninja or otherwise) will appreciate them , too. Grooves in the Temple is somewhat overlong and that's before you factor in the two bonus vocal versions, which take it up to seventy minutes. Admittedly, he gives us an interesting take on Zep's Kashmir (which largely fails, despite Pescara's best efforts, to bring out the song's inner jazz), although whoever sings on the vocal version has no idea how the lyrics fit the music. Perhaps it's deliberate. Call it jazz. As for Joao Paulo Mendonça's 'Mellotron'; what, those strings on Miles Miller? Seven years on, Knight Without Armour is a big improvement, shorter, with tighter arrangements; Infinitum is particularly good. Glauton Campello's 'Mellotron'? Presumably the not-very-Mellotronic strings on the title track.

Duane Peters & Pascal Briggs  (US)

Suicide Child / Cold, Cold Ground 7"  (2003,  10.35)  ***

Duane "The Master of Disaster" Peters seems to be known more as a professional skateboarder than as a musician, although he was mainman of late-period American punks U.S. Bombs, while Pascal Briggs seems to have no skating background. Er... The pair collaborated on Suicide Child in 2003, a brutal song played in an almost-acceptable style, while the flip, their version of a Tom Waits number, is as endearingly nihilistic as you'd expect. Jens Schilling is credited with Mellotron on the 'A', with a background sampled choir part running through the song, to no great effect. Like Johnny Thunders? Stiv Bators? Richard Hell? Get hold of a copy of Suicide Child.

Andrew Peterson  (US)

Clear to Venus  (2001,  45.28)  *½

Andrew Peterson is (wait for it) a Christian singer-songwriter whose lyrics (gasp!) proclaim his undying love for and allegiance to a wholly imaginary deity for which there is not one shred of actual, real, hold-in-your-hand proof. Utterly bizarre, although I believe over half the Earth's population has a similar, irrational belief. Education, education, education... Peterson's second album, 2001's Clear to Venus, is a fairly typical God-bothering effort, although, in fairness (why?), some of its contents are less offensive than others (Isn't It Love, Hold Up My Arms), but the bulk of the record is, to be honest, an utter dog. Glenn Rosenstein (Sarah Jahn, the horrible Plumb) plays samplotron on Hold Up My Arms, with about half a second of the faintest of faint strings towards the beginning of the track.

Randy Pevler  (US)

Directions  (2011,  49.22)  ***

Randy Pevler sits firmly in the Joe Satriani-style 'shredder' school of guitar playing; prior to his solo career, he played for several small-name Californian hard rock outfits, before releasing 1994's Back When I Was Sane. Nearly two decades on, 2011's Directions is an accomplished, if slightly derivative effort, typified by the by-numbers approach of Bigfoot and Guardian Of Forever, amongst others, while highlights include the Eastern-flavoured The Departure, classical guitar piece Sandswept Lands and the gentle The Incident. Drummer Donny Sarian's 'Mellotron' strings on Two Hearts fairly clearly are nothing of the sort, not only too smooth, but sustaining a good bit too long at least once. People tend to either be fans of shredding albums, or they don't, in a rare, genuine example of the much-mooted 'love it or hate it' syndrome. This seems to be a decent example of the genre, but there isn't much point giving it a blast if you're not already into the style.

Madeleine Peyroux  (US)

Dreamland  (1996,  39.33)  ***

In case you haven't heard of her, Madeleine Peyroux is a contemporary jazz singer, though more in a 'contemporary singer tackling traditional jazz' than a modern interpreter. 1996's Dreamland is her debut, a perfectly acceptable album of mostly piano-led 'late-nite' jazz, Peyroux's voice perfect for the style. She writes three of its tracks, although I'd guess the bulk of the remainder are lesser-known (at least to me) standards. Charlie Giordano plays samplotron, with a muted string part on the title track.

Phenomenal Handclap Band  (US)

The Phenomenal Handclap Band  (2009,  66.10)  **½

The Phenomenal Handclap Band play a confusing mélange of styles, referencing Motown, '70s funk and even Santana into a funky stew of psychedelic soul, filtered through modern indie which, frankly, does it few favours. Their eponymous 2009 debut will probably go down very well indeed in some quarters, particularly those equipped with a dancefloor, although lovers of even slightly more 'serious' music are unlikely to go a bundle on this, possibly excepting lengthy psychedelic closer The Circle Is Broken, which is actually halfway decent. It might be more palatable if track lengths had been kept down, or a couple of songs chopped off the album's length, but as it is, not only does its style irritate, but it goes on seemingly forever, making for a double-whammy of finger-drumming and not to its rhythmic intricacies. Daniel Collás plays samplotron, with a string part opening Give It A Rest, flutes on the slightly rocky The Martyr and strings again at the end of Baby.

Phideaux  (US)

Chupacabras  (2005,  48.30)  ***½
313  (2006,  48.10)  ***
Doomsday Afternoon  (2007,  66.53)  ***½
Number Seven  (2009,  62.48)  ***
Snowtorch  (2011,  44.47)  ***½

Phideaux are effectively the duo of multi-instrumentalist Phideaux Xavier and drummer Rich Hutchins, utilising other musicians on an album-by-album basis, not least Valerie Gracious' vocal contributions. Their third album proper, 2005's Chupacabras, is an inventive work, slipping from the Celtic-inflected title track through occasional neo-prog and even prog metal moves to a not untypically-American style of contemporary progressive on most of the album. Highlights? Possibly four-part closer Ruffian On The Stairs, but nothing here appals. Sampled Mellotron here and there, but it isn't exactly central to the band's sound. The following year's 313 isn't quite up to the standards of its predecessor, although it still contains some fine music, notably closer Benediction. An overall lack of cohesion, too many lengthy slow sections and some irritating vocoder work scupper it slightly, although not enough for me to try to dissuade anyone from hearing it. Heavy samplotron use on the first couple of tracks and Body To Space, although that seems to be your lot. 2007's eccentric Doomsday Afternoon is a return to form, with more of an 'American' sound to several of its tracks. Next to no samplotron this time round, though, with naught but a smattering of strings on opener Micro Softdeathstar and The Doctrine Of Eternal Ice (Part Two).

2009's Number Seven is a decent enough effort, but a thought struck me about half-way through: would I rather be listening to this or to something else? Sadly, the answer is: something (albeit not anything) else. It's not a bad record, but it just fails to grab me in any meaningful way. So to speak. It appears to have a concept, which is entirely impenetrable, while the music fails to hold the interest supposedly provided by the lyrics. There are a few tracks of samplotron, notably the distant choirs on Hive Mind, stabbed strings on Interview With A Dormouse and flutes on Thermonuclear Cheese. 2011's Snowtorch is a major improvement on its predecessor, although it peaks during lengthy opener Snowtorch (Part One), never quite managing to hit those heady heights again. That isn't to say that the rest of the album's weak, merely that its mainstream symphonic prog moves, while excellent of themselves, have little to say that hasn't already been said by others. Samplotron on both parts of the title track, string and choir parts appearing at random intervals, which is another way of saying: nice sample work, not overdone.

Phideaux remind me of the wave of progressive bands who appeared about a decade earlier - you know, Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings et al., not so much musically, but in the way in which they would churn out huge volumes of complex, highly-composed music, often at the rate of an hour-long album (or longer) a year. Inevitably, quality control will eventually slip; I think Phideaux might do well to cut back slightly on their release schedule and wield the editing scissors slightly more brutally. Saying that, these are all perfectly acceptable albums, but all at least slightly overlong, with too much filler.

Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham  (US)

L'Avventura  (2003,  44.11)  **½
He's Coming Home/Old Toy Trains 7"  [as Dean & Britta with Sonic Boom]  (2007)  **½

Luna's Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham released L'Avventura not long before their parent band split, the only album they've released under that specific appellation, subsequently working as Dean & Britta. Unsurprisingly, it's not a million miles away from Luna's 'dream pop', with strong hints of Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra's easy listening '60s vibe about it, which is unlikely to endear it to fans of '70s prog or hard rock; even psych fans may well reject this for its excess corn. Several of its tracks are covers, not least Madonna's I Deserve It and The Doors' Indian Summer, all treated to the same smooth, velvety treatment which you really will either love or hate, I suspect.

Producer Tony Visconti (that explains the album's sound, then) plays 'Mellotron' flutes and strings on Out Walking, but the low string notes give their sampled origin away, making it a tad irritating that it's credited as 'Mellotron'. Again. A rather ordinary part, anyway, on an album you're probably not going to like, although I'll admit it's good at what it does. The duo (as Dean & Britta) released a Christmas 7" in 2007, pairing He's Coming Home with Old Toy Trains, the latter initially released as a download a couple of years earlier. Er, it's a Christmas single, so you get what you expect, with faint Mellotron string samples on the 'A'.

Charlie Phillips  (US)

What it is  (2012,  45.44)  **

Philadelphian Charlie Phillips (not to be confused with the '60s country singer) is a country-inflected singer-songwriter, whose third album, What it is, would've got a slightly higher rating here were it not for the dreadful lyrics; real sixth-form stuff, or whatever the American equivalent phrase might be. Awful, bland platitudes we've heard a million times before; believe me, Dylan he is not. Sample? From Just Not Ready Yet: "Who's the queer/And who's the straight?". I dont think he's intending to be offensive, but 'clumsy wordsmithery' doesn't really cover it, does it? Kenny Kearns plays supposed Chamberlin, but the arranged strings part on Still Wind doesn't shout 'genuine tape-replay' to me.

Grant-Lee Phillips  (US)

Nineteeneighties  (2006,  43.56)  ***

Grant-Lee Phillips was, of course, frontperson and all-round mainman of Grant Lee Buffalo, carrying on in solo mode after their dissolution in the late '90s. After three 'regular' solo albums, 2006's Nineteeneighties is Phillips' covers album, pretty much every track being from that decade. Why, you may ask? Why the '80s? Presumably because it was the decade when he turned twenty (he was born in '63), when all his formative influences came together, culminating in the formation of his band and thus of considerable emotional importance to him. And, maybe surprisingly, he's actually come up with a good set of songs from the decade. I'm afraid to say I'm not conversant with most of the originals, so direct comparison is difficult, but I'm aware of the general styles of most of the covered artists and I think it's safe to say that Phillips has definitely tackled the songs in his own inimitable way, largely as haunted, lovelorn alt.country ballads. Which work best? Probably Joy Division's The Eternal, The Church's Under The Milky Way, R.E.M.'s So. Central Rain and the one I spotted straight away, The Cure's Boys Don't Cry, non-coincidentally, four of the slowest numbers here. Phillips plays samplotron himself, with strings on New Order's Age Of Consent, flutes on Robyn Hitchcock's I Often Dream Of Trains and both sounds on The Smiths' Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, closing the album.

Gretchen Phillips  (US)

I Was Just Comforting Her  (2009,  51.30)  **½

Gretchen Phillips' earlier work has earned her the description 'punk/folk', but I Was Just Comforting Her is more of a lesbian-themed pop-end-of-alt.rock effort than anything, possibly at its best on the Americana of Your Drinking. I'm really not sure why Phillips gets a 'Mellotron' credit: surely not the vague stringy thing on closer To The Lady C?

Rain Phoenix  (US)

Time is the Killer 10"  (2019)  ***

Rain 'sister of River' Phoenix's Time Is The Killer is a duet with R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, released as a 10" EP, backed with two tracks from her brother's old band, Aleka's Attic. It's a heartfelt ballad of the kind you can imagine Stipe involving himself with; a bit gloopy, but ultimately harmless. Kirk Hellie is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, but the brief string part (which instrument is it meant to be? Both?) sounds sampled to my ears.

The Phoids  (US)

The Phoids  (1998,  40.48)  ***

The Phoids were at the indie end of powerpop on their eponymous release, better tracks including Vertigo and closer Spark On The Horizon, despite the musical crime of a children's choir on the latter. Rob Arthur's credited Mellotron on I Never Worry and I Can't Win turns out to be nothing more exciting than vague samplotron flutes.

Phonograph  (US)

Phonograph  (2006,  48.24)  **½

Phonograph sits somewhere in between indie and psych, at its best on In Your Mind, the powerpop of Parsons White and woozy closer Isolbel. Someone plays samplotron flutes on In Your Mind.

Phosphorescent  (US)

Here's to Taking it Easy  (2010,  44.23)  ***

At first glance, Phosphorescent are just another Americana outfit, material like opener It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama) and The Mermaid Parade backing up that assertion, but the album's haunting centrepieces, Hey, Me I'm Light and epic closer Los Angeles take things to another level. Matthew Houck's 'Mellotron' presumably provides the background flutes on We'll Be Here Soon.

Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands  (US)

Snake in the Radio  (2006,  45.50)  ***½
Cody's Dream  (2008,  54.50)  ***½

Mark Pickerel's had a varied career, originally known as drummer with The Screaming Trees, alongside Mark Lanegan, later jamming with Nirvana, before co-forming Truly with Robert Roth. Snake in the Radio is a full-on Americana album, packed with dark country ballads and the occasional foray into country/punk along the lines of the excellent A Town Too Fast For Your Blues. Steve Fisk allegedly plays Mellotron on the album, but I'll be buggered if I can hear where. Cody's Dream is possibly more adventurous than its predecessor, with Pickerel playing with song structures (see: Deep Inside Your Shade) more than previously. Fisk plays a high samplotron string part on One More Cup Of Coffee (nothing to do with any other song of the same title), switching to flutes later in the song, with more strings on She Sleeps Through The Sirens.

Picture Palace Music  (Germany/Austria)

Midsummer: Music for Sound Divers & Baptism Ceremonies  (2010,  65.20)  **½

Midsummer sits somewhere in between trance and 'tradional' EM, with extra added metal guitar, tribal drumming, massed male voices... Definitely ceremonial, assuming your idea of a ceremony involves various pagan rites. Perhaps you have to lose yourself in it. Unfortunately, I have a good sense of direction. Very little samplotron, for what it's worth.

Rebecca Pidgeon  (UK)

Bad Poetry  (2014,  44.25)  ***

It seems Rebecca Pidgeon is a British actress/singer whom, after singing with Scots band Ruby Blue in the late '80s, moved to the States. 2014's Bad Poetry is her ninth solo album, an eclectic record showcasing a variety of styles, not least the dark folk of the opening title track, the downtuned is-it-isn't-it metal of Freaks And Hustlers, the Neil Young-channelling Below Zero, the indie balladry of Do No More... Best track? Possibly You Blind Me, with its inventive use of instrumental harmony. Tim Young is credited with Mellotron, but those are clearly sampled strings on the title track and Love Is Cocaine, rather unfeasibly pitchbent on the latter. Take any track here at random and it sounds fine, but the cumulative effect is less impressive, sadly. No, not sure why. Three stars anyway.

An Pierlé  (Belgium)

Helium Sunset  (2002,  55.07)  ***½
An Pierlé & White Velvet  (2006,  54.23)  ***

An Pierlé's second album, Helium Sunset, attempts the balancing act of being moody without sounding ridiculous and, would you believe, she succeeds? Most of the tracks fall loosely into the 'ballad' category, but don't take that to mean we're into, say, Dido territory; this is far more accomplished and far less contrived, although nearly an hour of it does get a bit much, to be honest. The credits for Sorry read 'live mellotron: An Pierle & Koen Gisen'. 'Live Mellotron'? As in 'a Mellotron played live'? Nope; more 'something sounding a bit like Mellotron voices actually emanating from live things', i.e. Pierlé and partner/producer/etc. Gisen. In other words, backing vocals. So... Why 'Live Mellotron'? Who knows? Maybe they thought it sounded cool. Anyway, it fooled me until I actually heard the thing, so don't get caught the same way. An Pierlé & White Velvet, four years later, treads a similar path, with more obvious samplotron flutes and strings this time round.

Pigeonhed  (US)

The Full Sentence  (1997,  65.39)  **

Pigeonhed were the Seattle-based duo of Shawn Smith (Brad, Satchel) and producer Steve Fisk (production credits include Soundgarden and Screaming Trees), who, going by their second and last album 'proper', 1997's The Full Sentence, mixed'n'matched genres to the extent that, to be brutally honest, it's all a bit of a mess. Better efforts include the drifting title track, the funky P-Street and semi-ambient closer Honor, but over an hour of genre-hopping and overlong tracks wore this listener down. Fisk is know around these parts for crediting himself with 'Mellotron' for years, when what he actually meant was 'Mellotron samples' (he's finally bought a real machine, apparently), the strings on Phunpurephun being fairly obviously sampled. I'm afraid to say I can't honestly recommend this album, although a half-hour of its best bits might be rather more listenable.

Pigface  (UK/US)

A New High in Low  (1997,  125.33)  **½

Coalescing in 1990, Pigface have been described as an 'industrial supergroup', formed by Brit Martin Atkins (PiL, Killing Joke, Ministry) and Yank William Rieflin (Ministry, RevCo, Swans, Nine Inch Nails) while touring Ministry's The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. The pair carried on working together, recruiting other musicians from the tour, conceiving the band as having a 'revolving door' policy with regard to collaborators. I'd guess that their fourth album, 1997's A New High in Low, is essentially based around samples taken from who-knows-where, rhythm tracks and extraneous noise added in the studio. Is this a valid way of producing music? Of course, but I can't say it's one that gladdens my heart. Many of the track titles come from repeating phrases used in the source samples, while the second disc's two lengthy The Howler: An English Breakfast pieces consist of no more than treated rhythm tracks under a voice (Atkins'?) spewing a diatribe about, er, something to do with British life. Atkins is credited with Mellotron on Warzone and You Know/You Know/You Know, to which I have to say: Are you taking the piss? The sampled choir patch used on both tracks has little to do with a Mellotron, to my ears, to the point where I'm not even sure one was the basis for the samples. Overall, then, if you like your Ministry and your Rev(olting)Co(cks), you stand a good chance of liking this, but the rest of us probably need not apply.

Pilate  (Canada)

Sell Control for Life's Speed  [a.k.a. Into the West, by Pilot Speed]  (2006,  53.11)  **½

Pilate's second album, 2006's Sell Control for Life's Speed, is a pretty typical indie effort, fifth-hand Velvets influences present and correct, to the point where I'm having trouble thinking of anything else to say about it. Better tracks? Maybe piano-and-vocal closer Into The West, although it's still pretty dreary. And (recurring bugbear here) why is it so long? Albums of this type should never top forty minutes. Chris Stringer plays 'Mellotron' on Over-Ground, with a decidedly background string part that shows off its sampled origins as it rises to the top of the mix at the end of the track. To be honest, on an album this lacklustre, it's all a bit irrelevant, anyway. Pilate have subsequently changed their name to Pilot Speed after threatened legal action, retitling this album, for some unknown reason, Into the West. Oh well, good way of selling it twice, eh?

Pilgrym  (UK)

Pilgrimage  (2004,  54.56)  ***

Seven years on, Pilgrym are beginning to look like a one-off project, the brainchild of guitarist/vocalists Andy Wells and Tony Drake, with contributions from a couple of other musicians. Their sole album, 2004's Pilgrimage, certainly has its moments, particularly the Kansas feel of opener Circus Of The Absurd and Black Sun, although the first half of Ghosts Of Years sounds like one of those ballads towards the end of a mid-'70s Elton John album, while Believe Me Now is cheesily upbeat, in an almost sub-Asia vein. Criticisms: too long. Not just the album, but individual tracks could well do with editing, repetitive instrumental sections in major need of trimming. 'Bonus' tracks: they're not bonuses, as I can't imagine there's a version of this available without them. Circus (Edit) is precisely that, while a live track, Reborn, is dreadful neo-prog, actually dragging the album down by its inclusion. Wells' 'Mellotron' is quite clearly sampled, with background choirs and over-extended strings on Circus Of The Absurd and a major string part on Black Sun amongst the more obvious use. So, guys, don't put 'Mellotron' on the credits. 'Cos it isn't. If you're into that modern prog thing, you may well go for Pilgrimage, but don't be surprised if you encounter the same problems with it as me.