Obroa-skai smash together pieces of screamo, noise, hardcore, and no-wave into a concoction all their own on the puzzle that is Science Progresses One Funeral at a Time.

Release date: November 17, 2023 | Zegema Beach Records | Bandcamp | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

They sound like Swans. In a blender. Full of rocks. In Hell. They sound like Orchid. Stretched out like Gumby. From across a field. In a rainstorm. One of the greatest joys is finding a band that is difficult to describe by relation, they have to be experienced directly. With their debut album Science Progresses One Funeral at a Time Obroa-skai are way out on a limb of experimentation. By embracing the true freedom of sonic exploration, they sound like themselves. And that is a compliment of the highest order. Nothing is more punk rock than doing exactly what you want to do, saying exactly what you want to say, and being exactly who you are.

Defying categorization can be a double edged sword. On the one hand there is no clear jumping off point and no built-in audience. On the other you have complete and total autonomy. But this kind of fierce originality is not without cost. When you don’t stand on the shoulders of giants you often stand alone. Mass appeal will not be guaranteed. Commercial success? Throw that right out the window. Just try taking artistic integrity to the bank. This kind of labored dedication can only be undertaken for love of the game.

Science Progresses… begins slowly with “soft rains” the sounds of wind, waves, perhaps a storm in the distance. Foreboding of things to come. A distorted voice almost chanting joins the disjointed noise. Nothing is clear, nothing is certain. ‘INTO THE EMPTINESS’ screams a voice from the bottom of a putrid well enveloped in darkness. It’s unclear if they are imploring us to join them or warning us to stay away. Completely confused and utterly unsettled we are launched into “it must have been beautiful” essentially the title track of the album as dual vocalists Amy Lewis and Cory Lewis proclaim ‘Science progresses one funeral at a time/Lets hold one for those who don’t see our truth/There’ll be no eulogies, not final last words, as their bones are laid to rest.’ Quite the tone has been set right at the outset. The vocals throughout the album shift chaotically from wailing bedroom emo cries, to aggressive hardcore screams, to complete howling insanity in one of the greatest utilizations of multiple vocalists in recent memory. The shortest most abrasive track “another world is possible” is also one of the best. A little over a minute of pure feedback worship and screaming closes out Side A.

The aptly named “void” parallels the ambient drone noise of “soft rains” as the introduction to Side B. White noise underscored by ghostly growls from the netherworld culminates in screaming ‘INTO THE VOID’. Having journeyed through the emptiness of Side A we now enter into the void on the flipside. Like A Wrinkle in Time the album folds in on itself. Most obviously in the ambient introductions to each side of the record, but there are other more subtle mirror effects throughout. The feedback laden “myth of the disembodied voice” foreshadows the almost entirely feedback “another world is possible”. The drone of “syncope” echoes quieter moments found elsewhere on the record.

Halfway through “nextdoor” all of the noise cuts out as a jaunty guitar section comes to the fore and the vocals lament ‘In neighborhoods once full of life/Have been replaced with sterile investments.’ Harkening back to “it must have been beautiful” from the beginning of the record and “home” near the end where again the noise stills long enough to exclaim another similarly impactful message. ‘Memories of sitting in front of an out of tune piano/Forcing a melody out of what I felt was ugly and malformed.’ Obroa-skai are searching for a signal in the noise and order out of chaos. For all the varied soundscapes being explored there is cohesion through a weird kind of symmetry. Science Progresses One Funeral at a Time doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.

The lengthy and awesome album title is a popular paraphrasing of Planck’s principle. Without getting too deep into the weeds of Quantum Mechanics, it’s enough to know that this quasi truism is derived from a statement by physicist Max Planck that ‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die…’ If not literally true Planck’s principle does capture a certain sentiment that there are gatekeepers to progress and sometimes stubbornness runs six feet deep.

The band’s unusual name is another even more obscure reference to the planet Obroa-skai of Star Wars. The planet was first mentioned in Timothy Zahn’s classic novel Heir to the Throne. Obroa-skai is a library planet that remained neutral in the galactic civil war and is home to one of the most expansive collections of data records and academic institutions in the Star Wars universe. Make of all this what you will. Maybe it’s a mission statement about remaining neutral during times of galactic turmoil as a bastion of open access to information. Maybe it just sounds cool.

If you want to have a comfortable listening experience go turn on the radio. Well, good luck finding an actual radio to tune into. So on second thought go walk around the mall. Wait, are there even malls anymore? Okay, just ride the elevator up and down listening to Muzak. Actually, never mind that sounds awful. Just stop off at the bar and listen to whatever’s playing in the background. You will not be offended. You will not be challenged. You might nod your head along, but you won’t have to think or feel anything.

Obroa-skai aren’t here to hold your hand. This is going to be uncomfortable, painful even. So much of entertainment is empty mindless consumption. The kind that asks nothing of the consumer and offers even less substance. A difficult journey towards a greater end is made worthwhile by the struggle. We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. In the case of Science Progresses… the juice here is very much worth the squeeze. Obroa-skai might be breaking a few eggs, eardrums, and genre expectations along the way but they’re serving up one hell of an omelet.

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