Information Retrieved is the sort of album you want to listen to with headphones on, so as to make sure not to miss a single pluck of the guitar string or tap of the snare drum. In the five years since 2007’s Autumn of the Seraphs, California duo Zach Smith and Rob Crow have developed a tightly controlled, almost minimalist collection of songs that remains singularly Pinback while sounding unlike much of their previous work.
Whereas Seraphs found Pinback often moving through their math-rock motions at a moderate clip and even playing with punky energy on tracks like “From Nothing to Nowhere,” Information Retrieved is in no hurry. Tracks like “A Request” and “Sherman” seem almost to mosey out of the speakers rather like a spring bubbles up from underground—“of itself so,” as the late philosopher Alan Watts might say.
Information Retrieved’s arrangements are stripped down, especially by Pinback’s standards. As a result, listener’s ears are drawn into a fuller awareness of, say, Smith’s bass-playing on “His Phase,” which seems to both drive the beat forward and glide the melody along at the same time. But slow-and-steady songs like “Diminished,” with its twinge of ’70s folk in the vocals, are balanced by the toned-down power-pop of opener “Proceed to Memory” and album closers “Denslow, You Idiot!,” with its vintage frenzy of guitar picking and clipped drumming, and “Sediment,” which may be as close as the duo will ever get to arena rock.
From start to finish, Information Retrieved sounds confident and deliberate, a consummate release from two deft musicians who’ve made every note count.