Formed in Toronto in 1998 Picastro seem to have had a revolving door of personnel since but have managed to tour and release albums on a regular basis, and now appears to have a settled line up.

No point messing about, this new album from Picastro is not an easy listen, and will have limited appeal. It’s discordant, melancholic strings and eccentric vocal performances give it an overall feeling of alienation, and oppression. Saying that, perseverance and patience is the key here and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get something from it.

They deal with a basic band set up, plus lots of strings. Opener Mountain Relief pretty much reveals all with strings at the fore, overlaid with spoken vocals and one-armed percussion. If they were going for vast soundscapes they’ve failed and actually managed to conjure up miserable emptiness as on the excruciating Judas Claim and Temur. The sauce here are the strings and they are usually deployed expertly, and don’t sound bolted-on. But at times their tempo does lead to a leaden pace and a sense of ‘already heard that’.

Also, there isn’t any real relief from the gloom as such just variations in its extremity. For example Vampires’s subtle use of electronica is quite alluring, the infusion of Spanish guitar on That’s It and oddly enough the longest track Baron on the Trees, which at times brought to mind Japan at their more experimental. The album closes with the acoustic oddity February, and despite comments above, it’s not quite the relief that you’d expect as the overall sound does linger in the mind.

At 33 minutes it’s not a long album but with its nihilistic and dour vibe it could feel longer. This is not everyone’s cup of tea, even the most broadminded will have difficulties, it is worth a listen though.