Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
A Place to Bury Strangers, the Brooklyn noise-rock trio, have shot to the top of my list of bands to see live. Just check out this picture of frontman and guitarist Oliver Ackermann swinging his guitar by its strings. I thought I had seen it all as far as destructive rock star moves, but Iâ€™ve never seen that. Dude is a techie and handy enough to fix up his own guitars when he inevitably fucks them up at their gigs.
For all their noise, A Place to Bury Strangers have been evolving subtly over the years, delivering more smudgy nuances to their noise-rock with each album. This time, Oliver Ackermann and company move forward by taking the contrast between their deadpan and explosive moments to extremes; if their last album, Worship, was a sleek race car, then Transfixiation is where they crash it just to watch it burn. With the help of drummer Robi Gonzalez, who makes his recorded debut here, the band gets closer than ever to its live attack on "Supermaster" and "Straight," where the massive riffs cave in on themselves and Ackermann's icy-hot vocals add some sensuality to the destruction.
A Place to Bury Strangers frontman Oliver Ackermann builds effect pedals, a fact that precedes nearly everything written about the band, and with good reason: Their brand of revival post-punk comes outfitted in all manner of unruly guitar noise. But the band's ambitions exceed just showing off Ackermann's wares. There's plenty of cacophony on their fourth album, Transfixiation, but it also boasts the band's most layered and infectious songs to date, delivering on the album's corny portmanteau: It'll gain your rapt attention even as it smothers you.
As hard as it might be to imagine any band ever tiring of consistent compliments, you do wonder whether the press’ preoccupation with A Place To Bury Strangers’ live craft has ever begun to grate for the New Yorkers, especially as if often seemed to come at the expense of the plaudits that their recorded output has long merited. Everything you’ve heard about those live shows is true, to be fair - they are brutally uncompromising affairs, both in terms of their breakneck pace and the group’s liberal approach to the volume dial - but neither of those facets would be of much importance if the trio weren’t playing some of the most inventive and intelligent noise rock since the turn of the century. Still, to say that their last full-length, Worship, was without fault would be disingenuous.
Brooklyn's A Place to Bury Strangers are a quintessentially DIY trio. Not only do they build most of their own gear — thanks to bandleader/singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann's effects pedal company, Death By Audio — but, until it closed late last year, they also ran their own performance space and recording studio (also called Death By Audio). Though it wasn't intended as such, Transfixiation contains some of the final documents of the latter endeavour: All but two of the songs were recorded at DBA during a sort of trial-and-error process whereby Ackermann was attempting to find the most effective ways to capture the band's live sound.
The emotions at play as A Place To Bury Strangers launch into Transfixiation—guilt, anger and regret—stand as a signpost, pointing straight down the road their fourth album takes. Guitarist/singer Oliver Ackermann is at his most direct on the opening “Supermaster” and either by design or by chance, that first impression of unsettled and unquiet emotions carries through the other 10 songs, culminating in the brutally heavy and distorted “I Will Die.” Ackermann, bassist Dion Lunadon and drummer Robi Gonzalez know their mission, have the skills and have no fear in treading into a maelstrom of noise. Transfixiation is at its best, however, when a little restraint casts its own spooky shadows.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Notorious noise-niks A Place To Bury Strangers don't do cheerful. Happiness is simply not a setting on their monochrome pedalboard of doom. Transfixiation grumbles, squeals and hollers, forgoing craftsmanship of songwriting for total aural desolation.
Fewer bands have been more misunderstood in recent years than Brooklyn three-piece A Place To Bury Strangers. Lazily and somewhat bizarrely dismissed in some quarters as shoegaze revivalists - a term that could only suggest said accusers have never actually listened to a note of their actual music - they can possibly lay claim to being the loudest 'Marmite' band in existence. Nevertheless, for every naysayer there are dozens in thrall to the wares of Oliver Ackermann, Dion Lunadon and Robi Gonzalez.
After two years of solid touring, New York’s masters of noise A Place To Bury Strangers have allegedly taken a “bold, experimental step forward” for their new 11-strong collection, Transfixiation; however, unless they’re simply referring to a tempering of the overwhelming brain-melting cacophony of noise so prevalent in earlier material, it’s largely difficult to see where exactly this experimentation lies. Single Straight was the first new cut to raise its doom-laden head above the surface, where a pummelling seven-note guitar riff descends into a pit of despair and chaos of scrambled, choppy guitars and manic, cymbal clashing percussion. With the rubbery bass bouncing alongside hollow vocals, there’s a distinct feeling of less noise emanating from a band once dubbed the noisiest in Brooklyn.
Over the course of three albums, APTBS have tried varying levels of bludgeoning sound, but frontman Oliver Ackermann has never seemed content with the noise his band can make. The New York trio’s live shows are consistently overwhelming, and Ackermann – who owns guitar-pedal company Death By Audio – conceived ‘Transfixiation’ to be as instinctive. So it’s odd that parts of it sound too careful.
The shrill white noise, the all-black-everything wardrobe and demeanor, the Blanco y Negro Records worship: These are the proverbial primary colors of A Place to Bury Strangers, so the Jesus and Mary Chain was always going to be their most obvious comparison. But as their albums increasingly become advertorials for their outside business ventures and incapacitating concert experience, Jimmy Buffett might be the more accurate comparison. Can’t knock the hustle, though—APTBS’ rather impressive longevity is due in large part to knowing their audience, and on their fourth LP Transfixiation, the mere titles of "Now It’s Over", "Filling the Void" and "I Will Die" let you know it caters to the indoor sunglasses crowd as expertly as "Too Drunk to Karaoke" and "Oldest Surfer on the Beach" did to the Croakies set.
A good debut album can be something of a blessing and a curse all rolled into one. A Place to Bury Strangers know this all too well; their self-titled debut was a near-masterpiece, a perfect whirlwind of effects-laden guitar rock that could be at once beautiful and terrifying. It was also a bit of a “lightning in a bottle” moment for the band, as they found it difficult to recapture that original magic on subsequent releases.
The whirlwind that is A Place To Bury Strangers’ core sound — the mystifying, screeching guitars; the blown-out rhythm section; the cavernous vocal treatments — create a sense of space and violence that is larger than what seems possible. Steely timbres and brilliant colors of noise fill the air. Enigmatic blasts of processed sound assert a potential for building unconventional emotional experiences, the kind that feel visceral, restorative, invigorating.
As humans, we feel multidimensionally. Our emotions are almost never simple, linear, or easy to sum up in a few words. So, as listeners, it’s instinctual for us to gravitate towards music that captures our messy kaleidoscope of sentiments — something that has the capacity to make us feel more alive than we already are. If that’s the measuring stick for the success of music on the whole, then Transfixiation, the fourth album from noise rock band A Place to Bury Strangers, is not worth your time.
Over ten years and three albums, Brooklyn’s A Place To Bury Strangers have built up a quiet but firm reputation as masters of psych-y noise rock. ‘Transfixiation’ is the follow-up to 2012’s ‘Worship’, and the band’s first album with new drummer Robi Gonzalez. The new man’s rhythm section partnership with Dion Lunadon is an immovable concrete for the album’s duration, recalling Joy Division, as well as the expected My Bloody Valentine comparisons, with its relentlessness.
Bands that stubbornly stick with successful formulas can be forgiven if their songs are strong. A critical dud on arrival may experience new life as a reappraised gem down the road. It's a story familiar to bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain, who masked tightly written pop gems with aggro noise and lazy personae. That band is a clear influence on Brooklyn trio A Place to Bury Strangers, whose fourth LP is lazy through and through despite throwing up waves of explosive sex-and-death rock and roll.
A Place to Bury Strangers revels in discomfort on Transfixiation. The NYCers fourth LP pulls from the trio's usual obsessions – shoegaze, noise rock, 120 Minutes circa 1988 – with zero interest in making things easy. "What We Don't See" puts a sing-along melody over a simple rhythm pulse, but intertwines it with seasick guitar. "Love High" shimmers brightly, but ratchets up the tension with an unresolved chord progression.
A Place To Bury Strangers has gotten a lot of mileage out of its reputation as one of the most soaringly loud bands in the American rock underground. That said, the New York trio has been known to overindulge in its chaotic noise rock whims. It’s easy to be awed by the band’s power, but its earliest work occasionally crumbled underneath its own sonic weight.
A Place To Bury Strangers is a band with a reputation. A mythology has started to follow the Brooklyn trio: the custom-built pedals, the dizzyingly loud live show, the obvious late 80s/early 90s reference points. The opening tracks of their fourth full length, Transfixiation, however, do not appear to fit with these preconceived impressions. Whereas the opening tracks of their first three albums went for immediate impact, Transfixiation's 'Supermaster' is a slow creeping, down tempo song dominated by Oliver Ackermann's vocals and curiously light on the guitars.
Cannibal Ox:Blade Of The Ronin Cannibal Ox are one of those Salinger-grade acts who followed up an instant classic full-length with a silence long enough to seem like a breakup and rustling with just enough rumors to keep hope flickering. During that late-‘90s to early-‘00s moment when “underground rap” had enough of a shadowy presence in on both sides of the now-defunct indie-mainstream aisle to seem like a cohesive genre, the NYC duo’s sole LP, 2001’s The Cold Vein, defined an era, a sound, and an ethos. But, largely on the strength of that record, the times have caught up to Can Ox: formerly their work was most fully realized of many attempted updates on Public Enemy’s apocalyptic sonic M.
A Place to Bury Strangers — Tranfixiation (Dead Oceans)A Place to Bury Strangers threads lost bits of melody through boiling maelstroms of noise, cranking blistering guitar feedback andsuper-speed, sweat-soaked drum beats over intermittently hummable tunes. It’s a trick more or less invented by the Velvet Underground, brought to noisy-pop perfection by the Jesus & Mary Chain and thereafter copied, with varying degrees of success, by dozens, maybe hundreds of bands. The fuzz crusted hook is, obviously, a staple rock flavor, one that makes many of us drool reflexively, and if there’s nothing shockingly new here, there are a few songs that push a well-loved sound to white-hot degrees of intensity.