Drahla - Useless Coordinates - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Drahla - Useless Coordinates

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2019-05-03
Drahla - Useless Coordinates
Drahla - Useless Coordinates

This is a great and very modern rock album that pulses with electricity.

The poet E.E. Cummings once wrote, “the syntax of things/will never wholly kiss you.” And this band, like other modern artists, deconstructs that “syntax of things” and then puts the pieces back together in a way that, well, Humpty-Dumpty may not even look like an egg anymore. Let’s just say that Drahla will never be sued for the copyright infringement of any song by The Bay City Rollers.

There are a lot of sharp elbows in this music that follow in the dissonant beauty of bands like The Fall, Television, XTC (at their most experimental), The Cure, The Talking Heads, and especially Wire.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, likes to say, “We’re all the same because we’re all different.” And that’s the way it is with this band. Each instrument sparks its own flame; yet each spark, without giving an F# of an inch, somehow completes the sonic whole. “Gilded Cloud” is ruptured rock with three musicians in weird harmonic orbits that share a conversation that is rife with emotion. The bass throbs big drops of paint; the drums punctuate spaces; the guitar is abrasive glue; and the vocals, somehow, manage both melody and mystery.

Dave Mason of “Feelin’ Alright” and early Traffic fame had an album called Alone Together. Well, that’s the blueprint for this music. The second song, “Serenity,” is urgent, fiery, and oddly cosmic, as the guitar punches at the heavens. And there’s a brief sax blow. “Pyramid of Estate” is even better with much more sax aggression.

“Stimulus for Living” is simply a wondrous tune. Yes, it echoes Wire’s art-rock ethos, but the synchronicity of the players is energetic like, perhaps, William Blake’s four-fold vision, somehow mutated into the grooves of a rock ‘n’ roll record.  

Sometimes, odd things like that happen.

And great things will always threaten to collapse. “React Revolt” does just that. The bass and drums are tough, while the sax is even tougher. And there are huge and quite beautiful spaces between those tough punches. Then the guitar and vocal enter the match to produce magical conversations among at least four different languages all singing from different time zones. Yet it is all sort of sublime in a weird uncompromised way.

Weird reference points: First, this music reminds me of (the long-forgotten band) The Box and their great album Secret’s Out from 1983, with its equally disjointed beauty. And this also recalls (especially with the disgruntled sax) the sound of Van Der Graaf Generator’s David Jackson, as he blew rock ’n’ roll sax all over bandmate Peter Hammill’s brilliant album Nadir’s Big Chance. The band Rip, Rig & Panic, simply through their avant-garde attitude toward pop music, has a similar orbit. Now, to be fair, Luciel Brown’s vocals sound nothing like Peter Hammill, Peter Hope from the before-mentioned The Box, or Neneh Cherry.

But, as said, there are a lot of minor-keyed uncompromised elbows thrown in this music.

“Primitive Rhythm” is brilliant and brief cacophonous pop music. The same is true for “Serotonin Level.” They both live in the same sonic apartment complex as the “Ex Lion Tamer” from Wire’s brilliant Pink Flag album.

Ha! “Twelve Divisions of the Day” propels this oddball music into the higher octave of great brain synapse-snapping catchy music. This defies the top of whatever charts because it should be there, but it’s too clever to ever score pop points.

You know, this music recalls the ethos of Joy Division and the sharp-edged sound of The Gang of Four.

“Unwound” does just that, and then some.

Again, brilliant music always shares sharp elbows with other brilliant music.

The final tune, “Invisible Sex,” begins with the slowly dripped sound of Salvador Dali clocks, and then it continues to pace time with a modern rock ‘n’ roll pulse, a pulse with an (almost) upbeat parting glance.

You know, E.E. Cummings said a lot of poetic stuff. But I love his line, “Listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go.” And in that “hell of a good universe,” bands like Drahla, and all others mentioned, may well be big talent show winners. And to quote Louie Armstrong, no slouch to hot five innovation, “What a wonderful that would be,” a world with “the bright blessed day” and “the dark sacred night,” and, indeed, a world in which stern and melodic rock ‘n’ roll music just like this would play, forever and a day, on everybody’s favorite bandstand.  

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