A guitar picks a scratchy note, then a drum beat starts, a warbling bass carries a catchy foot stomping riff, guitar wails, then stops. A disinterested voice meanders by, and that bass riff, oh the riff, it carries you along past verses and meandering guitar, until the guitar fractures into shards...
The shards collect, slowly, a reverse disintegration sound. Then flat tapped drumming and a happy little melody on the bass, warbling around, while the guitar squeals and the voice chants bored. On the chorus the guitar screams and that bass melody takes over. This song gets my head bouncing and my feet shuffling. This is the first truly great song i heard in 2015. It utterly rocks my socks off.
Those two songs, Supermaster and Straight, start off Transfixiation the fourth album by noise rock band A Place to Bury Strangers. I have been enjoying these guys since i first heard To Fix A Gash In Your Head back in 2007. I have paid attention to the band here and there, but have never really been a devoted follower. That is to say, i liked what i heard, but never went and tracked down their releases.
Until i saw that they were playing The EARL back in February. I had seen them once before -- in 2007 or 2008. They were loud and chaotic and noisy and fun. So i dragged Tracers to see them, and ended up having a complete blast. I picked up this record at that show.
Okay, continuing with the record, after the amazing Straight they take the distortion up a notch with Love High. The guitar and bass are so overdriven that they are a fuzzy My Bloody Valentine-esque drone, just a haze over drumming that sounds like a machine. The whole thing is disorienting.
The next song kicks off with the guitar tremoloed and overdriven to hell and back, just a fast wavering tone reverbing. Then the drums kick in and bassist Dion Lunadon throws in another catchy riff, as the guitar plays a bit of melody through the tremolo. What We Don't See is another really great song. It reminds me of early JAMC, just echoed voice and blur of drums buried in a sea of guitar haze. This is another tune that gets my feet shuffling around.
They continue the JAMC references on Deeper. Vocalist Oliver Ackermann sings at the low end of his range with that disinterested Jim Reid drawl, like from the last half of Darklands. The whole band plays slowly, ponderously, letting his bored voice drive them along. Until the chorus, where a female voice joins in (i can find no credit information for who that is) and the band just hammers at it, pounding noise out of their instruments. This is a brutal, dark tune, and at over six minutes it is the longest on the record. This is an exercise in noise as pain.
It fades right into the creepy Lower Zone, where drummer Robi Gonzalez taps nervously while a little melody trills as noises reel around it. There is a moment of silence after it fades out, then the band is back at it, drums and squealing guitar and bored voice. We've Come So Far features another great bass riff, this one higher-pitched and fast. The female voice is back and on the choruses the whole song wavers like MBV once again. This is another punishing, brutally noisy tune.
Now It's Over is more new wavish than the other tunes here. There bass rumbles lowly as the drums are insistent and flat. Ackermann sings through echo and the whole thing is gothily poppy. I see people dressed all in black swaying along to this rhythm, driven despite their accessorized despair to dance a little.
That was kind of a darkly sad song, but the I'm So Clean take the noise back to JAMC joyfulness. This is fast and loud: the voice yelled, the rhythm so fast, the whole song just tearing by. This one also gets me bouncing around. There is a brief transition, a sort of slowing down, then they come in with Fill the Void. This is a little different for them. When the guitar slows down, it chugs like something early from the B-52s, some great Ricky Wilson-like riff. It jars nicely with the deep Jim Reid gothed out vocals and the all out, furious rhythm. This is another song that just hurls forward.
And finally we wrap things up with I Will Die. This song is overdriven to the extreme, pushing past JAMC and into late 1960s garage rock distortion. Something about this seems very old, like the first time people tried to do this kind of thing (think: the MC5) and technology just wasn't up to it, so old recordings sound like they are just disintegrating, the music so loud that it is just collapsing into a million fuzzy pieces, as Ackermann yells "I will die again and again" over and over... This is intense.
This is an incredible record and i adore it. It is noisy and fast and crazy, and yes dark at times (if you actually struggle through the noise to listen to the lyrics, Ackermann is not one of those "flowers und sunshine" kind of people). A few of the songs in the middle focus more on the noise than on the rhythm, but when the band is really playing, it is incredible. I continue to be impressed.