Youth Code - Commitment to Complications - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Youth Code - Commitment to Complications

by Sean Hewson Rating:7 Release Date:2016-04-10
Just as the Bonzo Dog Band found jazz "delicious hot, disgusting cold", I find industrial music delicious dirty, disgusting clean. So, Youth Code were a breath of fresh air when they released their self-titled debut in 2013. To me at least, industrial music had become quite polite and polished - triumphant chords played on expensive keyboards by bald, middle-aged men (my people) in black t-shirts.
Youth Code took it all back to before Ministry got guitars. To the days of Nitzer Ebb, Front 242 and Skinny Puppy. The album sounded like it was just a sequencer and a drum machine. The voice was either female or an androgynous combination. It was great. Commitment To Complications is the follow-up to that album. But what's going on? Chords? Guitar? Proper singing? 
The first track, (Armed), starts out with atmospheric synth chords and polite, sequenced lines and I'm imagining Sonny Crockett staring forlornly out of a window in Miami Vice. But, as the song finishes familiar, harsher sounds creep in and then Transitions explodes in your face with the kind of pounding, shifting drum pattern that NIN used on March Of The Pigs and hoarse screaming. Whilst normal service has resumed there are definite signs of change on Commitment To Complication. Both Sara Taylor and Ryan George seem to be pushing forward. Occasionally it feels like it's more individually than collectively and what George has created with the music doesn't always fit with what Taylor is doing with the vocals and lyrics. You can hear this on Lacerate Wildly where his chords are lovely and suggest a melody but Taylor seems to be stopping just short of singing. However, for the most part, they have developed in-sync, especially on the album closer, Lost At Sea which introduces some sadness amidst the rage and self-loathing. It uses the same combination of hard sounds and pretty sounds that Trent Reznor uses and comes with a lyric that, too me (it's sometimes hard to hear), is about stagnation in relationships. It ends with sad chords followed by a single percussive punch. It's a good example of how the arrangements on Commitment To Complication are much fuller than before. Other than Doghead there is very little that is straight EBM. The rhythms are different, more varied. The songs are no longer just built around sequencer lines and chords have filled out the sound. As much as the arrangements have developed on this album, so to has Sara Taylor's vocal. It is clearer on a lot of the songs, an indication of a growing confidence. And now that it isn't buried in distortion you can hear that her voice has a curious quality - it has a raspy, hoarseness and is quite androgynous. On several occasions it has, and this is a compliment, a whiny edge that makes her sound like David Tibet or John Lydon. It's quite strange. She also varies her delivery - as well as the screams, there are spoken word sections and, On The Dust Of Fallen Rome, she even breaks into a chorus.
Lyrically, and with titles like The Dust Of Fallen Rome, Lost At Sea and Anagnorisis ('a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery'), there is the sense of a relationship in trouble but also the feeling of fighting to save that relationship. It is perhaps too easy to presume that this refers to Taylor and George, but their relationship (professional as well as personal) does feel central to this album. In interviews about the songs on this album Taylor often describes how she felt, whilst George lists what he played. Obviously their roles are not as easily defined as this - they both write, sing and play - but this combination of raw emotion and a fascination with the technicalities of music-making is a good balance and both these sides have developed equally, making this album more emotionally and musically rounded than their début. On Commitment To Complications, Youth Code have successfully moved forwards without losing their edge.

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