Release Date: Feb 7, 2012
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
An extended play ultimately has a multitude of uses. It can be a simple single padded with bonus tracks or B-sides that a band or an artist wants to toss out as a sort of odds-and-sods release for die-hard fans. Or it can be an entity in its own right, a tight package of material that has a definite start and end, and is more of a mini-album – think Sugar’s Beaster as a good example of that.
One day, years down the road, when the tinnitus is ringing in our heads like the miniature bells of an ant colony, someone might tell their kids or grandchildren about a little band from New York called A Place To Bury Strangers. They'll probably comment on how brutally loud their live show was, or how they went as far as to construct their own effect pedals to produce the synapse shredding sounds their guitars made. But how much of what people will say about this band be about their actual albums? The power trio (emphasis on power) came out of the gate strong with their self-titled debut in 2007, and arguably bested it on 2009's underrated Exploding Head, but buzz surrounding the group has been largely silent since not long after that album dropped.
What we all love about A Place To Bury Strangers is the way no other band sounds quite like them. Sure, there are some that might be regarded as musical cousins - Screen Vinyl Image perhaps comes the closest - but the only blood relatives are their parents, Skywave, and their siblings, Ceremony. What I love about A Place to Bury Strangers, apart from their persistent novelty, is how their music looks like water: That up there is the sound graph for EP Opener 'I Lost You'.
Not so much a progression as a steady flexing of muscles, Onwards to the Wall is a brief, visceral 16-minute noise jam, but A Place to Bury Strangers does what they do so solidly, they can hardly be faulted. Undoubtedly prepping for their upcoming, month-long North American tour with The Joy Formidable, APTBS have carved a commendable name for themselves in the abrasive rock scene alongside contemporaries HEALTH and The Horrors, and while they do not yet parallel the clever evolution of the latter group, they certainly prove here that they haven’t run out of ideas yet. “I Lost You” features crushing reverb, relentless echoes, and breakbeat drum work, as Oliver Ackermann sounds morose as ever.
A Place To Bury StrangersOnwards to the Wall EP[Dead Oceans; 2012]By Colin Joyce; February 8, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGA Place To Bury Strangers has long relied on their live reputation to carry them through the hard-to-navigate musical waters of shoegaze. And, while I cannot speak to the intensity of their performance, their studio releases have never seemed to me anything very distinct from the vast numbers of bands with very similar sonic palettes. Both their self-titled debut and 2009’s Exploding Head seemed the product of a few guys with instruments and copies of Loveless and Psychocandy.
The Onwards to the Wall EP arrived nearly three years after the album Exploding Head, which presented a lusher and more accessible take on A Place to Bury Strangers' visceral take on shoegaze than anything they'd done before. These five songs show that the band remains unafraid of changing and growing, even if that means going back to basics. Onwards to the Wall balances the lessons the band learned on Exploding Head regarding hooks, melody, and structure with the raw attack that made their earlier work so thrilling.
In November of last year, A Place to Bury Strangers released "So Far Away", the first taste from Onwards to the Wall, the follow-up EP to their 2009 sophomore album, Exploding Head. As a song, "So Far Away" carried a lot of the same hallmarks of the material that had immediately preceded it, but unlike the screeching, industrial-minded manic power that defined much of their terrifically visceral self-titled debut, it's a groomed, economic kind of song that rounds-off all of the dangerous, splintered ends. More notable was the video that accompanied the track, a sort of "flipbook" montage of frontman Oliver Ackermann's own personal Hipstamatic photos, stitched together to create a stop-motion-animation effect, except with real live people and settings.
A Place to Bury Strangers have an energy problem. Their eponymous debut record captured a neo-Shoegaze fury so intense, so undeniably incredible, that it was met with instant acclaim. The follow-up, Exploding Head, didn’t. The songwriting was just as good, the style was similar, but the energy was missing.
Like a strawberry cupcake covered in Szechuan pepper, A Place To Bury Strangers finds the sweet spot by ripping its way through in Onwards to the Wall. The NYC troop endeavors to be inviting on this five-song EP, mixing thrusting bass and reverbed-to-hell vocals above the sheets of distorted guitar – but the effort is minimal enough that die-hards won't bitch. Even the pop-wise title duet with Moon's Alanna Nuala bristles with tension.