Disappears - Era

by Daryl Worthington Rating:7.5 Release Date:2013-08-26

Chicago is a city of brutal contrast, somewhere that is, on the one hand, a centre of commerce and industry, and on the other houses some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the US; a loud buzzing city of mansions and slums, a symbol of progress in some areas, and crime and deprivation in others. It is essentially, a typical modern city, but one where this polarisation is particularly severe. Disappears are from Chicago and, although Era isn't an album of social commentary or political sloganeering, the ominous ambience, harsh textures and fierce repetition the band use to underline themes of obsession, dislocation and frustration feel particularly informed by their home town even if never directly referencing it.

Last year's Pre Language saw the band blending their influences of garage-rock, post-punk and psychedelia into an exhilarating whole, but one that felt more like an effective amalgamation of these influences than a clear statement. With Era, we have something that feels more unified.

Sonic Youth's EVOL served as the point where the band begun to effectively mix their no-wave beginnings into clear song forms. The album was recorded in Brooklyn, and served as a surrealist reflection of the chaos and violence of 80s New York, much like how Joy Divisions Unknown Pleasures feels bound up with Manchester of the 80's. Era follows a similar track. The remorselessly efficient rhythm section which comes in with the blast of noise that opens the metallic garage-rock of 'Girl' drives the album through to its end and underpins a tapestry of fractured guitars and intimidating vocals, linking the album together into a ferocious whole.

This isn't an album of escapism, but brutal confrontation. It's like the nasty antithesis of Tame Impala. Elements of psychedelia and dub are present but they are used to reflect frustration and desperation. 'Ultra' sits between minimalism and post-punk brutality. Sticking on the same two bass-notes for what seems like an epoch, metallic scrapes of guitar weave into the drums and shards of drones hover mercilessly in the background.

The song eventually breaks down into a wall of noise which sounds like the squeal of a train slamming its breaks on. The repeated line "If you go I'll go" keeps cropping up alongside drawled lines of fixation: "I want your body", "I can't turn it off"; music and lyrics combining to create an abstract image of obsession.

The title track switches from a sentimental, dubby verse which seems to be about a couple considering their dwindling youth, into a sneered chorus that asks '"Is rapture your only fear/ or do you think about it at all?". The final track, 'New House', returns to the dub production values, with a clunking bass heartbeat and reverb-drenched guitars as singer Brian Case reaches his most paranoid, describing disorientation and dislocation: "You're the same but they're all different now".

The tracks rarely patronise the listener by making their themes explicit. Perhaps befittingly for a Kranky release, a label whose main continuity has been music capable of generating deep atmospheres, the listener is pulled into a deeply sinister world like a Brett Easton Ellis novel, providing abstractions of the worst of human nature without resorting to passing judgement.

Along with acts like No Age and Liars, Disappears are contributing a modern update of the ideals of the original post-punk music from the late-70s and 80s. Diverse influences are absorbed, and albums are made with a strong focus on concepts and aesthetics. With Era, the band have created something which lacks the immediacy and energy of earlier albums such as Guider, but feels like the band have matured into creating an 'album' rather than just a collection of songs.

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