Being something of an ‘under a rock’ dweller, a ‘let’s pull the curtains closed and turn off our phone and pretend the world isn’t happening’ type of critter, there are lots of things I haven’t heard of or know next to nothing about. This is the price I consciously choose to pay in exchange for my unusually mentally serene lifestyle. For instance, did you know you can get delicious fried chicken delivered to your door now? There are people out there paid to provide this service – global pandemics and everything! I have just recently learned about this modern miracle. A Place to Bury Strangers is another thing I just learned about. A band from Brooklyn, apparently. Noise rock/post hardcore and experimental – also apparently. I like them. I can get behind them. They are no delicious fried chicken, but they are still well worth opening one’s curtains about. That was intended as a callback to my earlier comment as regards my anti-social misanthropy, not as a thinly veiled sexual innuendo, but you know what, it’s a brave new quasi-literate world.
Read it how you like, I say.
Hologram, the latest offering by this burying strangers outfit is, compared to their earlier work – I have no idea, as I have explained. Coming in fresh, though, clean slate, no preconception-having and wide-eyed, the music is much more intimate than what I expected. I read the words ‘noise rock’ or ‘post-hardcore’, and my mind’s eye’s ear is instantly filled with aural visions of frenetic drum fills and anguished vocals. Unstinting tidal waves of sound, pulverizing the listener into submission. This isn’t that – Hologram isn’t that, even if A Place to Bury Strangers have been that in the past. Maybe they have. You tell me.
No, Hologram has waves of sound, but they’re not tidal; they float in and shimmer and spin you around in a whirlpool of guitar fuzz, feedback squalls and distortion rip tides, but then it recedes. The straight ahead, no frills drum stylings of Sandra Fedowitz and the steady, melodic bass work of her husband John Fedowitz – a new line-up, so I am told – keep Oliver Ackermann’s noise secretions on a leash. There’s a shoes-gaze meets beach rock, the Strokes meets Slint or Brainiac at a Joy Division concert type of feel that I was strongly affected by. Am I mellowing out to this music, or am I filled with adrenaline and the impulse to dance? Do I feel like going over my past failed relationships, in my head, and cataloguing all the ways in which I’m a loser and an embarrassment, or do I feel like attending a protest rally after dying my hair an exciting shade of luminescent?
The correct answer is ‘Yes’.
“In My Hive” is my favourite song off the EP, the sudden, out of left field UFO laser beam noises that screech in and transform an otherwise groove fuelled, toe tapping head-nodder into a genuinely psychedelic seizure. The sizzling froth from the guitar pedals melts into the soundwaves given off by the cymbals that are almost precisely the same register, and it all congeals and mutates together in the ear like a curdling soup of reverb and discombobulation. I love it. I’m listening to it again as we speak. Conversely, the more straight ahead melancholy of tracks like “I Need You” didn’t tickle me as much. Solemn and heartfelt as “I Need You” is, I just enjoyed what A Place to Bury Strangers does with soundscapes and noise too much to switch gears as smoothly as the band does on the EP. Which is of course a roundabout way of saying I’m just plain bad at listening to music.
Let’s not explore that line of thought too closely here.
Hologram is, more than anything else, a warm EP. There’s melancholy here, self-reflection, but also a call to arms and a determination not to let things get us down. The vocal work is understated and hypnotic, the bass is subtle, the drums are tight. The sound and the noise are the frontmen here, and you love to see it.
I’ll have to crawl out from under my rock more often.