VIDEO PREMIERE: Plattenbau - Security

Will Shenton

Where most in the pantheon of retro, VHS-style music videos go for an understated, DIY aesthetic, Plattenbau's latest uses it as a canvas for vibrant, kaleidoscopic visuals. While the lo-fi tracking fuzz remains as a nostalgic filter, the colorful geometry that cascades around the Oakland duo is utterly mesmerizing, especially when coupled with the propulsive industrial beats they've become known for.

Taken from their forthcoming EP, Endless, "Security" indulges in a long simmer before boiling over. Opening on nothing but deep, driving synths, we're shortly treated to Megan Biscieglia's restrained, almost whispering vocals. Over the course of the song, her voice expands and recedes, occasionally bursting into soaring cries before retreating back into intimate, conspiratorial tones.

Throughout, the manic distortions of worn-out videotape take on vivid colors and textures, adding layers of dynamism to irresistible effect. "Security" is a piece that surprises both lyrically and visually, bringing new life to an already riveting track.

Endless drops June 5 on Glowing Dagger.

REVIEW: Profligate - Somewhere Else


Phillipe Roberts

Noah Anthony’s music as Profligate exists in a realm that’s equal parts anxiety and serenity. His voice, dark but warm, drifts with an eerie, dispassionate calm through chaotically buzzing fields of power electronics that constantly threaten to overpower him. Deep listening is a must; for all the firepower he throws into his productions, blasting off with shrieks of noise or milking a disorienting snare for every nauseating hit, the mild-mannered coolness of his delivery forces you to pay attention, continuously adjusting your auditory focus to take in the nuances of his performance. Teetering frantically between total collapse and flow-state ecstasy, Somewhere Else, his latest work, is also his most rewarding and wide-ranging. For the nocturnal headphone-dweller, it’s a scenic mind map well worth poring over. For the industrial club-seeker, Anthony brings a devious set of grooves diverse enough to keep you coming back for more.

Somewhere Else comes into view slowly. The opener (also the title track) sweeps in on steady bass bumps as a grinding synthetic pulse creeps alongside. Other elements unfold dramatically: snatches of guitar, lagging keys, and pixelated electronic distortions flutter in and out at their leisure, giving the impression of a machine chugging across a foreboding landscape. Constantly approaching or departing from these textural landmarks, the words sung by Anthony can only be picked apart with great care. The intent and effect is to pull you deeper into the mix—baiting with familiar tones to assure you that, yes, a flesh-and-blood human is at the controls, programming this strange journey. By the time the song collapses to the finish line at the eight-minute mark, opening up into more spacious territory with a gorgeous acoustic bass and noise duet, there’s a sense of acclimation to the oceanic pressures at which Anthony works.

With the cinematic exposition out of the way, the album leans into the left turns, exploring more hook-centric territory with an industrial flair without turning his mind-altering synth explorations into window dressing. “Jet Black (King of the World)” alternates between blasts of noise and a deep echo dub riff, turning the title phrase into a call and response that becomes the record’s poppiest moment. Expanded electronics aren’t treated in a purely dichotomous way throughout; noise isn’t merely the “shadow” to the lighter hooks. “Enlist” winds glitchy manipulations around a slinky bass riff, creating a series of secondary riffs running alongside the more obvious ones. Channeling the darkest corners of synth pop, particularly Depeche Mode, yields tremendously enjoyable results, and gives Somewhere Else other attractions beyond its mysterious grit.

While this is the first album to fully showcase Anthony’s collaborations with poet Elaine Kahn, she mostly sticks to the background here, harmonizing gently. “Lose a Little,” a skittering drum number that percolates out into nothingness towards the end, constitutes her biggest feature. The brooding instrumentals, hissing with crackling radio static, play well under her voice. “Fucking nature / You delight in getting rid of me,” Kahn spits just before it comes to a halt. Her venomous monologue heightens the tension just as the album begins to take on too much familiarity. The presence of a secondary voice energizes the experience, and more of her features would be a welcome surprise.

Much like its cover, Somewhere Else takes pleasure in small contortions. Anthony introduces touches of chaos to throw you off balance, but never enough to render reality unrecognizable from the hazy dream states into which he seeks to lure you. Approach with caution: its constant dissections won’t quite peel you apart, but may throw your ears into an unorthodox tuning for quite some time afterwards.

REVIEW: Beliefs - Habitat


Kelly Kirwan

Jesse Crowe and Josh Korody have created a parallel dimension—one that resurrects the heyday of '90s rock bands that fell under the post-punk umbrella. It’s a world that isn’t starkly different from the one we live in, but has a flair from two decades past, as if they had bottled it up and set it free to float around in the present. The Toronto-based duo, known by their musical moniker Beliefs, certainly have their own style, but it—and the coming together of the two in the first place—was certainly sparked by an appreciation for acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive. Now, on their freshly-minted album Habitat, a nod to that era stands with their single, "1994," and its accompanying video.

The song features Jesse Crowe’s steadfast, even-toned vocals, lulling you into a somewhat eerie trance. It’s by no means a flimsy voice, but it has a certain ethereal nature to it, like a sort of preternatural croon. Crowe is featured in the foreground throughout the song's music video, as Korody plays guitar a few feet farther away from the camera, a dark blue screen as their backdrop. The film flickers and cuts into tiny, pixelated streaks of distortion, reminiscent of a VHS tape getting its reels caught in the gears of the VCR. "1994" is a groovy, moody wash of melody cascading over surreal undertones, and the two of them bop to the beat as Crowe offers tiny dance movements with gloved hands. Even in these seemingly innocuous movements, they imbue it with an uncanny feeling of the in-between space they inhabit.

Later in the album, "Half Empty" opens with a strong, percussive pattering of drums and a clash of cymbals, reminiscent of jazz openings or a trip-hop beat. “Don’t know how to tell you / But I just can’t keep my mouth shut,” Crowe sings, her voice twisting into higher octaves, once again commanding the room with her every utterance. Guitar lines are warped as they unfold across the melody, intermingling with the darker palette of electronica with which Beliefs seem to enjoy experimenting. In fact, throughout Habitat's 11 tracks, there's a noticeable trend of pared down guitars making room for a new electronic leaning, possibly nodding to Korody’s other musical pursuits where modular synths increasingly abound.

On "All Things Considered," the duo make good use of contrast. Fuzz and feedback open up the track, paired with vocals that are slower, more languid, and backed by a foreboding setting. But then it picks up the pace in the chorus as the beat becomes danceable and light on its feet. Moving back into the verse feels like switching the TV channel to a snowy wall of white noise.

With moves like these, Habitat is an album that’s hard to ignore. It's a compilation that leaves the world a little tilted—and for that, it’s an addicting terrain to explore.

REVIEW: Boy Harsher - Yr Body is Nothing

Laura Kerry

It’s no surprise that, according to an interview from last year, the personal and musical relationship that comprises Boy Harsher began with a church/warehouse space and the song “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Back in Savannah, Georgia, where the duo lived and went to film school before moving up to Northampton, Massachusetts, Jae Matthews had an aha moment watching Gus Muller dancing to New Order, and she began to woo him by sending him her prose writing, which he set to music, thus creating their first project together, Teen Dreamz.

Now, an EP and a brand new full-length later, Boy Harsher has perfected the formula whose seeds lie in that revelatory moment in Savannah. On Yr Body Is Nothing, they mix post-industrial warehouses with the dry pulse of ‘80s new wave, creating synth-driven music that infuses its dark, creeping tone with an invitation to move. The duo resembles the band that is central to its mythology, New Order, in both sound and tone—the way it couches songs about emotional states (primarily overwhelming anxiety) in unexpectedly danceable tunes.

Throughout Yr Body Is Nothing, Boy Harsher flickers back and forth between the immediacy of those emotional states and simple numbness. That plays out in the vocals, which are sometimes distant and monotone (“Cry Fest”), and at other times close and despairing (“Last Days”), or even soulful (“Save Me”). In some songs, including the title track, they start out far away but come into focus, escalating the sense of anxiety as it continues. While build-ups in songs typically lead to some sort of release, here they serve to increase the tension, making the unease more palpable. When “Suitor” escalates, it does so in the form of a frenetic bass and a cacophony of voices, including deep breaths; when the beat “drops” after this and structure returns, the dance beat sounds ominous.

On an album full of songs with titles such as “Save Me” and “Cry Fest,” it doesn’t come as too much of a shock that one of the most danceable tunes is called “Morphine.” With a jittery bass line, deep, pulsing beat, and bright organ synth, the instrumentals lead to one of the few real hooks, “She’s like morphine on my mind / She’s like morphine all the time.” More than this refrain, though, another line stands out among the anguished whisper of vocals: "I want to make it hurt more / I want to make you dance." This seems to get to the heart of the album, suggesting that pain and fear and anxiety can push you towards the kinds of music that make you bob your head or move your hips, and that bobbing your head or moving your hips can create a kind of welcome numbness. Through the drone of bass, beat loops, and synths on “Morphine,” “Big Bad John,” and “A Realness,” among other tracks, it’s possible to achieve a moment of catharsis.