The success of HBO’s True Detective—and the plagiarism charges that dogged the show’s first season—sent thousands of viewers scrambling for books by authors that most of them had never heard of before. Those authors included the contemporary horror writer Thomas Ligotti (the alleged victim of True Detective’s plagiarism) and Robert W. Chambers, whose 1895 book The King in Yellow is referenced often throughout the show. Naturally, H. P. Lovecraft—whom Chambers influenced and, in turn, who influenced Ligotti—also casts a shadow. Like a squirming colony of worms underneath an overturned rock, that niche literary continuum found itself suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Privacy, the third album by Brooklyn blackened-punk outfit Raspberry Bulbs, also draws from that continuum, according to frontman Marco del Rio, who began the project as a solo affair following the demise of his black metal duo Bone Awl. There’s nothing novel in that connection; counting the number of rock bands that have cited Lovecraft alone would take ages. But what Privacy does so well, regardless of the listener’s familiarity with del Rio’s cult inspirations, is transpose the intangible dread of Ligotti, Chambers, and Lovecraft into a salvo of cold, sharp jolts to the psyche.
Raspberry Bulb’s last album, 2013’s Deformed Worship, was a strong step in this direction, but it also marked the project’s transition into a full band. The no-fi spew of Bone Awl had morphed into a murky howl, and that distance slightly blunted the record’s impact. On Privacy, though, del Rio and company—including Rorschach’s Nicke Forté and Les Savy Fav’s Andrew Reuland, both on guitar (and reunited two decades after their joint band Radio to Saturn)—don’t leave an inch of space in which to flinch. “Lionhead” staggers intrepidly into new dimensions of punk ugliness, set at a tempo too fast to be sluggishly grungy and too slow to comfortably mosh to. Forté and Reuland, old partners at guitar interplay, splinter their riffs into each other, leaving a nasty mess everywhere. The fully-rocking instrumental “Nail Biting” doesn’t justify its lack of vocals, but it’s a nerve-jangling exhibition of lacerated harmonics makes del Rio’s absence a little less glaring. But when “Finger Bones,” prickly and abject, gives del Rio room to chew out his own tongue while the band marches over the top of him, his pinpoint application of chaos congeals into a sickening, misanthropic logic.
Del Rio has denied any hint of black-metal allegiance when it comes to Raspberry Bulbs, but there’s no mistaking his blood-gurgling, Quorthon-circa-Under the Sign of the Black Mark grunt-screech, particularly on “Behind the Glass” and “Hopelessly Alive” which embody an awestruck disgust in the face of grotesque eternity. It’s almost religious, if such a thing as Raspberry Bulbs could be considered a creature of faith. There’s a perverse piety at play on “How the Strings Are Pulled”, a Venom-meets-Negative Approach hymn to debasement and moral powerlessness. When the woah-woah-woahs in the chorus come deliriously close to comprising a pop hook, it seems for a second as if Privacy might pierce its own veil and reveal its squishy humanity. But every time the album builds up a lick of sympathetic momentum, it’s cruelly defused by one of the brief, ambient interludes that break up the proper tracks—six numbered asides constructed of treated noise, distorted spoken-word, strangled strings, and eerie keys that help elevate Privacy’s fractured, labyrinthine torment above Deformed Worship’s more straightforward assault
In The King in Yellow, Chambers writes of “the blackness that surrounds me”—a trite phrase to 21st-century readers, but one that carried far more existential weight in the author’s own time. Is Privacy’s “Light Surrounds Me” some kind of response to Chambers? The song itself certainly sounds as if it could be: del Rio slurs its title in spasms of loathing, as if light were twice as horrifying as the alternative. Yet Privacy as a whole is vivid andwide-eyed, with del Rio sounding more swaggeringly confident than ever about his utter lack of confidence. Doubt and fear as cleansing ecstasy: That cognitive dissonance is part of what makes del Rio’s literary antiheroes so cryptically enduring, and it’s what makes Privacy so hideously hypnotic. “Big Grin”, a skeletal, garage-goth dirge that drags its carcass across five unforgiving minutes, feels like del Rio’s ultimate exorcism—only instead of a release, it’s a spiritual implosion. Unlike most bands that seek to probe the notion of a malevolent cosmos, Raspberry Bulbs aren’t trying to cheaply translate cosmic awe into a stomping, grandiose melodrama. Privacy is small, pitiful, tinny, messy, and emaciated, and it dares to demand that mankind doesn’t have the right to feel any differently. When punk stares into the abyss, this is what stares back.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1pEJHsu