Disappears left plenty of space in the cracks on their last album, 2013’s Era, and at points it was a surprisingly inviting kind of emptiness. That album’s title track even gripped something like a hook: “Is rapture your only fear/ Or do you think about it at all?” asks singer Brian Case at the chorus. Sure, he’s musing on the end of days, but at least he’s singing right to us. No such luck with the Chicago band’s fifth album, Irreal. Disappears have traded in their last pop streak for a world of stark and brutal rhythm.
Instead of questions, answers, and hypotheses, the lyrics on Irreal assume the shape of isolated fragments. Instead of melodies, the instruments trace shrapnel in the wind. “I want to remember/ Make me,” Case demands on “Interpretation” as a roiling drum pattern whips past him. He repeats the words in a steely monotone, only breaking his flat timbre when he throws the occasional “oi!” away from the mike. Somewhere behind him, guitars that don’t sound like guitars play chords that don’t sound like chords. “Anything could happen,” he smirks, and it’s more of a threat than a promise.
Irreal is a deliberately exhausting listen. The band dares you to see how far you can stomp behind them without a melodic phrase or a lyrical narrative to grab hold of. But unlike Swans, who paved much of this terrain, Disappears sound more resigned than spiteful. They’re eager to pummel themselves, but not because it offers any catharsis.
“Another thought/ Another memory,” Case drones later in the record. “Living in a loop of different lives.” His accompaniment is pitchy, nervous, and streaked with noise. The drums racket from the right channel to the left. This is cabin fever at its most intricate, a cage of beautiful repeating patterns that holds no chance of escape.
On the album’s title track, the guitars seem to bicker with each other, cutting squalls of feedback with sharp, demented arpeggios. Even the name sounds like a trap, a portmanteau of “unreal” and “irregular,” maybe, a word that’s just familiar enough to hint at meaning while still coming up void. When Case pronounces it, it sounds like “I will.” I wonder if there’s supposed to be a pun on “IRL”, too.
The song “Halcyon Days” probably hides a joke about aging behind its title. It’s certainly no calm before the storm. That may be Irreal‘s whole punchline: You count your years in suffocating routines and repeated patterns. You build memories somewhere between the filler. What do you get from it, except a library of respites to look back on in the tedium? What good are the best days of your life if you can only access them in retrospect?
The album’s last song coughs up the first melodic bass line in the whole piece, a mournful, descending figure. “Am I alone now?” Case wonders as the record spirals to a close. The band named that song “Navigating the Void”. If Irreal is a map, don’t expect to stop walking in tight, lonely circles.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/14VxqpL