Release Date: Jan 20, 2015
Record label: Kranky
Just when it seemed like Disappears couldn't get any sparer or darker, they do just that on Irreal. Where they used to trade in supernovas of feedback and distortion, their songs are now taut and spacious black holes. The Kone EP and their previous album Era pointed the way to this direction, but it feels more organic and confident here, with the band's evolution mirrored in linear, skeletal songs that can still generate more sparks than the work of much louder and flashier bands.
Brian Case broods, “I want to remember… Make... Me…” The song Interpretation begins Irreal, the latest album from Chicago post-post-punk band Disappears. In it the band works in a clean off-time groove, minimal but deep bass play accented by the corrosive shimmer of guitar strings. Case continues to declare his want of memory as the song continues, its pulse growing meditative before adjustments are made.
Disappears left plenty of space in the cracks on their last album, 2013's Era, and at points it was a surprisingly inviting kind of emptiness. That album's title track even gripped something like a hook: "Is rapture your only fear/ Or do you think about it at all?" asks singer Brian Case at the chorus. Sure, he's musing on the end of days, but at least he's singing right to us.
With all due respect to bands who live and die by the three-minute pop song, Disappears don’t have much use for it. Over numerous releases, the Chicago band has proven a proud champion of experimental noise rock, where the conventions of pop songcraft take a distant second to exploring sonic space. They’ll never be the most accessible band, but there’s something defiantly winning about their enthusiasm for stretching sound like silly putty.
Embraced by the shoegaze, psych and garage rock contingents in equal measure, Chicago four-piece Disappears aren't quite ready to slot into any genre-specific pigeonhole if Irreal is anything to go by. Their fifth album to date and first since 2013's Era. It's a coarsely intense and often relentless journey that takes the listener back and forth between the industrial landscapes carved out by first wave post punk experimentalists like Throbbing Gristle or The Pop Group and more recent, beat-driven excursions of HTRK or HEALTH.
Disappears — Irreal (Kranky)A haze of feedback buzz vibrates over chilled, impenetrable darkness, its inchoate hum punctuated by tones that blink, off-on, off-on. Out of this deep space, frontman Brian Case’s voice murmurs, shrouded so thickly with echo that you might have trouble making the words out, but he is saying, “Calling out, into the darkness.” This is “Navigating the Void,” off Disappears’ fifth album, not the single, not a featured video track, but in some ways a statement of intent, since it encapsulates the record’s sweat-slicked, alienated, technological unease. You feel that you are plummeting through unpopulated space, surrounded by spare, minimalist anxiety.
I have been teaching Year 8 students about dystopian narratives the past few weeks, and while YA novels and films are replete with the generic tropes of a society gone to hell in a handbasket, there are varying levels of this netherworld that people are willing to spiral into. The catharsis gained from connecting with someone who rises against and succeeds against an unflinching, barbaric, alien Other – often a reflection of the Self – is the popular option. You can come out the other side, a little world weary, a little wiser.