I could have never known what this would mean to me back then, but I will never forget it now. Find peace in the end with LAUGHINGFISH.

Release date: May 20, 2024 | Blacksquares Media | Bandcamp | Instagram

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Black Dresses. I was sitting at the plasma clinic in my hometown, selling my own lifeforce for monetary gain. Anthony Fantano had just released his end of year list for 2020, and near the top of the list I saw the album Peaceful as Hell. In his short analysis of this album, I found myself captivated by his words and interested in what the project may have to offer. At that time I was already dabbling in noise rock acts like black midi and hyperpop acts like 100 gecs. I assumed the perceived fusions of these ideas in Black Dresses work would be something that would appeal to me greatly. At that time I didn’t know how greatly the decision to listen to this album would end up affecting me personally, or how much it would plot the course for my music listening in years to come. We will soon peel back that personnel onion in this piece, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

Black Dresses is a canadian noise-pop duo consisting of wildly talented queens of the obtuse Ada Rook and Devi McCallion. LAUGHINGFISH is their seventh full-length project as a duo, and by now their fanbase has become accustomed to what these ladies are capable of presenting. Much of the duo’s catalog consists of these incredibly catchy, sweet, and often forlorn tunes tackling themes of friendship, online culture, and finding one’s place in a rapidly evolving and ever- frightening world. This is precisely what the listener will find in the album. This project opens on a more subdued note with the track “FANTA”. Buzzing synths and whispered vocals play behind bleak keyboard notes, creating a haunted but meditative atmosphere to stage the rest of the record off of.

Many more moments on this record will opt for this more calm approach going forward in the tracklist, but immediately following “FANTA” the record decides to move right into the more energetic noisy sound Black Dresses is known for. “FEEL SOMETHING” ends up being one the more memorable high energy moments on the record with Ada in particular finding moments to shine with her memorably contorted throaty screams. The raw noisy guitar and synth tones all of this track lend right into the even more cataclysmic feel of the following track “CAT CUP”. These two tracks together are classic Black Dresses and show the duo in their elements blending sweet cute refrains with these belligerent yelled moments of embroiled passion. This opening leg of the record paints a perfect picture of what is coming your way. If you aren’t into it by now, get out while you are ahead.

For those choosing to press forward with me, there is no shortage of moments to love on this record. From the crashing, scratched-out effects on “BAD VEGGIES” to the booming bass and bloopy shots of synth on “CAN’T KEEP THE KNOTS OUT” there is no shortage of unique textures and palette’s on display here. That has always been one of my favorite things about the Black Dresses discography. The girls never seem to run out of new ways to split and soothe our ears. Sometimes their production can feel like thumbtacks being scooped into your ear canals, especially for those not versed in noise music, but just as often it will find a way to be meek and endearing, worming its way into your memory and heart. It has always been this sonic and thematic dichotomy that drew me to their music. I could point out moments of elegant texture all day, but for the sake of brevity I would love to focus in on one section of the record I feel exemplifies all the best elements of this project.

“PURE REALITY” followed by “IF YOU FIND ME GONE” proves to be the emotional heart of the record. The former frames itself as an ode to self-discovery and self-affirmation. Lyrically Devi and Ada rake themselves through the coals of self-doubt and distrust. Somehow though the seem to come out on the other side will a new belief in who they are and where they are in this life. Shots of industrial percussion play behind thumping bass and Pixies-esque guitars, creating a beautifully raucous palette more than capable of carrying the immense weight of the lyrical themes at hand. Then this leads us right in the emotional gut punch that is “IF YOU FIND ME GONE”.

Shortly after the release of LAUGHINGFISH, it was announced online that this would be the final project from the duo. With this knowledge at hand I find this track to carry a dual meaning. It is both an ode to the mundanity of grief following the death of a loved one, and a goodbye to Ada and Devi. Lines like ‘Trash TV way too loud/You can’t fall asleep without the sound’ paint the everyday stress of death perfectly. It finds a way to seep into all aspects of one’s life and turn even a moment of rest into a gauntlet of stress. Loss is painful, whether that is the world shattering loss of a close loved one, or the pestering loss of your favorite band. This song really gives the lyrics room to shine, with the production knowing when to play it loud and when it to give space for Devi and Ada’s voices. I cannot stop spinning this track and it is easily my favorite on the record.

Now it is time to dig into what this band means to me personally. I am a fan of noise because of this band. Without Peaceful as Hell falling into my listening rotation I don’t think I would have ever become a fan of projects such as Merzbow, Lingua Ignota, or even a lot of the gnarly grindcore stuff that I now hold so dear. There is also the queer affirmation element to their music. It would be silly to say Black Dresses made me realize I was bisexual, but I do believe that once I began to suspect my own repressed sexuality, having a melancholic queer band that I already related to was a good tool for me to better contextualize those feelings. In short, Black Dresses meant a lot to me. I will miss their art dearly. I hope you all can find something beautiful to see in it much like I did.

LAUGHINGFISH is not a perfect record and is certainly not a record for everyone. Some songs drag more than others and the production in certain spots could certainly be fleshed out more than it is. With the immense tracklist and long runtime I get the impression that Devi and Ada used this project as an opportunity to dump any leftover Black Dresses material, since the project will not be continuing. Regardless of whether they are fully baked or not I am happy to have these songs available. Dig into the Black Dresses catalog. You will find no shortage of beautifully poignant angry gems to soothe and inflame your soul. I will miss their work together. I hope the world is treating them well as they move into what is next.

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