scott reitherman’s self-titled debut as pillar point in early 2014 read as a successful reinvention. a dark undercurrent coursed through equally-murky pop constructs, molding an ominous presence that all but dared listeners to either furiously dance or studiously absorb its lyrical content; multi-tasking was not a feasible option. but it turns out that pillar point was just the tip of that particular iceberg. on his sophomore follow-up, marble mouth, reitherman plunges into the depths of his aesthetic and emerges with a refocused and incredibly urgent end result.
disconnected relationships are still very much a central tenet of reitherman’s lyrics, but he’s more direct about these issues on marble mouth; the very title of “part time love” is a concession of the limitations geographical distance can put on even a committed romance, while “dove” fleshes out the subsequent strain and exhaustion from both parties. these melancholic expressions soak into most of the album, though reitherman allows himself moments of catharsis on the sprightly penultimate cut “underground,” re-routing emotional weight to third-person narratives before letting loose with the resounding hook of “give me what you need / i’ve been working overtime.”
if pillar point was a pop album that occasionally ceded to reitherman’s dance-floor urges, marble mouth feels like the opposite. pop constructs exist insofar as most songs have a discernible verse-chorus structure, but they’re routinely padded with firm indulgences into experimental textures and static harmonies. tracks like “black fly on a white wall” and “lafayette” funnel observations on new surroundings through robotic vocal deliveries and punishing ostinato bass grooves before wandering off into uncharted musical territories, while “gloomsday” is a dreary homecoming built around radio samples and a frenetic amalgamation of agitated synth motifs and steadfast percussion.
outside production from of montreal’s kevin barnes and percussion contributions from members of washed out and kishi bashi help to keep marble mouth from becoming an insular extension of its predecessor, but reitherman of course deserves the lion’s share of credit. if there’s any cop-out hedonism on this album, it’s buried miles-deep beneath extensive self-examination and an adventurous, eclectic sonic palette.
even the most accessible songs benefit from this meticulous writing process; “dove” rests its laurels on the polyrhythm interplay between strings and a four-on-the-floor beat while “playtime,” the album’s filthiest cut, uses its titular sample to foreshadow both the track’s eerie descending vocal melodies and its irresistible syncopations.
still, the most impressionable aspect of marble mouth is arguably its biggest outlier. after an exhausting half-hour dance odyssey, reitherman slows the tempo and eliminates much of the accumulated textures for “dance like you wanna die,” a poignant finale for lilting hearts that wonders “is there a love song that cares / whose mind she’s on?” this sudden juxtaposition is jarring, but it’s an integral piece in supporting the argument that scott reitherman has crafted the most earnest, and honest, album of his career.