Today, our panel of experts weigh in on “Black Cassette” – the first release from California “electrodoom” unit Wreck & Reference.
Ascetist / Psalm 69 / Grant Hobson
The spirit and sound of post-punk ( or, as it was called in the US. “New Wave”) seeps from the pores of these Californian’s atmospheric six track release.
Production-wise, it revels in its’ Albini-fications. Guitars are loud, drums even louder with the portentous Peter Murphy-esque vocals left to fend for themselves in the mid to back of the mix. Dynamically, it mines the stop-start, loudquietloud approach so beloved of MBV, Slint, Pigface or, to these ears, Bauhaus. If you’re an especially callow and unloved youth, you may find this band to be the answer to all your prayers.
It starts atmospherically enough with the opening “All The Ships Have Been Abandoned”, an initial drone loop is overlaid with a powerful and punchy drum pattern powering the track along until it breaks down into an almost Hawkwind-ish “Silver Machine” vibe. Vocals are proclaimed -they are doomy. Then there is some bleepy ambience to round off the track. Effective, but not killer.
“Surrendering” opens with bass and vocals, the lyrics refer to “frail frame / given name/ justly blame / complacent and tame”. The band break in and effectively motor over the rest of the track. They do this a lot.
“In Chains, Awakening” leads with the drums and a squall of guitar / keyboard. The vocals come in. Then the band and round things off with a frantic dash to the end.
“Evening Redness” evokes “Budd”-era Rapeman, both sonically and dynamically. “Desire, Ether” hangs about in the same neighbourhood as Swans’ latest, but doesn’t quite go anywhere and ends before it could have gone further.
The last track, “A Lament” is meant to be the Big Finishing Statement. It’s initial debt to Slint being obvious with the dramatic lyrical focus on “the absolute nothing / blackened space”. Whilst musically it’s going for the big finish, the angst-letting at the end is just embarrassing, with the screaming breaking down into almost a coughing fit. Bob Mould knows how to let rip at the end of a record if you want your singers to externalise their pain. Go and check him out Mr Lead Singer.
Musically, this band hits its stride and plays well. A bit more colour to the soundscapes would be nice and perhaps a bit more work on the teenage-y lyrics too? Here’s looking forward to their next release. It should be interesting.
Mathrawk / Baxter Holland
Without a single guitar, these purveyors of “electronic doom” have crafted six songs that are an impossible blend of haunting melodies and absolutely brutal intensity. “Black Cassette” is catchy, alien, life-affirming, and despairing all at the same time.
This contradictory atmosphere is only heightened by the practice-space quality of the recording. The hiss, distortion, and muffled vocals give these songs a texture that makes them even more memorable and addictive. I honestly can’t stop listening to this.
As far as the songs themselves go, they feel too experimental to be pigeonholed as “doom.” They have a restlessness to them that reminds me of Heavy Winged’s psych freakouts and This Heat’s sparse, alien soundscapes. Opener ‘All the Ships Have Been Abandoned’ goes straight for the throat, sounding like a slowed-down, deranged ‘Horizontal Hold,’ only to repeatedly decay and rebuild. ‘Evening Redness,’ on the other hand, begins with spare, chiming chords that give way to a monumental crescendo, which then disappears in a burst of staccato keys and stuttering drums. Each song goes somewhere unexpected and magical, and there will be more than a few moments where you can’t believe you aren’t hearing a guitar.
This is an amazingly inventive and rewarding album. Its experimental zeal is nicely held in check by the fact that these songs just flat-out shred.
Admin / Ilya
Darkness, darkness, be my blanket
As far as premises of doom/metal/drone albums go – “Black Cassette”, the debut from California band Wreck & Reference – may not be all that different from the rest. Its a journey into the deepest bowels of hell, a gesamkunstwerk whose sole function is to demonstrate the depths of human suffering/misery.
What is different about W&R and their first release is a certain viciousness and intensity of the attack that the band unleashes on the unsuspecting listener. Case in point – the first few minutes of the opener “All Ships Have Been Abandoned” – a wonderfully chaotic sludgefest that follows the opening electronic bleeps.
Overall, the album is bone-crushingly heavy and yet W&R never fail to incorporate drone/electronics into the song structure. Somewhat muddy/lo-fi production adds another dimension to already bleak music.
Of course, with any record of that kind, there’s always a feeling, that, perhaps, the band take themselves / subject matters a little too seriously, but the sheer impact of “Black Cassette” cannot be denied.
Other Reviews: Cactus Mouth | Review Stalker | Hammer Smashed Sound | Veins Dried Out | Not For Resale | Sixteen Tonnes | No Gods, No Masters
Interview with the band: CVLT Nation
Note – you can download/stream the album here.
Also note – Music Ruins Lives is re-releasing the Wreck and Reference Black Cassette on CD in a limited pressing. It will be the old six tracks that you’ve heard before plus a bonus track called “No Shepard” that will not be available anywhere else except the Music Ruins Lives CD. The CD will come in a digipack with a 8 page book containing more art and a piece of short fiction written by Wreck and Reference. The CD is limited to 100 copies.