On their newest LP Pre Language (Kranky), Chicago quartet Disappears take their minimalist aesthetic to it’s logical conclusion, honing their post-punk lexicon with laser-like intensity. Live Eye Tv had a chance to catch up with the band on their recent February stop in Seattle at The Chop Suey, for a fierce set of music. Stream performance videos of “Joa” and “Replicate” off their new one, Pre Language, as well as “Magics”, a track off their 2010 release Lux. CONTINUE READING
VIDEO: Disappears: “Replicate” Live @ The Chop Suey [YOUTUBE]
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VIDEO: Disappears: “Magics” Live @ The Chop Suey [YOUTUBE]
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Disappears began in 2008 when guitarist and singer Brian Case began a collaborative project with drummer Graeme Gibson, who was playing with the Chicago group Boas. At the time, Case was on break from playing guitar with The Ponys, and before that he had been a founding member of the post-hardcore outfit 90 Day Men, a band that had built a solid reputation for challenging math compositions and conceptual leanings. Excited by their early demos, Case and Gibson would soon bring fellow Boas member and guitarist Jonathan Van Herik into the fold, and with that Van Herik’s friend, bassist Damon Carruesco joined the group.
Taking a raw and minimal approach, and with a penchant for buzzed-out guitar bliss, the band recorded and self-released a series of 7″‘s, while also making them free for download from their website. With these early tracks making the rounds on music blogs and interest growing, the group began recording their debut LP Lux, and signed with Chicago’s Touch and Go label. In 2009, Disappears would play the label’s South by Southwest showcase and tour with Tortoise, Deerhunter, and Times New Viking. The band would also finish out the year playing the Pitchfork Music festival, as well as a New Year’s Eve show with the Jesus Lizard!
Disappears first LP Lux would get tied up in the tumult surrounding Touch and Go, only to be finally released on another Chicago indie label, Kranky. On the opener, “Gone Completely”, Disappears kicks off with a grungy, distorted bass-line before chugging into celestial guitar sprawl, with Case’s glazed-over vocals sounding like someone who had just seen a blinding white light. Lux moves through a variety of alt-rock approaches on stand-out tracks like “Magics”, “Pearly Gates”, and “New Cross”, drawing from the lexicons of psych, punk, shoegaze, and kraut rock to create a formidable and brooding wall of sound! By the album’s last track, “No Other”, this wide language of styles is boiled down to basics, as the band zeros in on a repetitive and starkly minimalist strategy, something that has become a signature of their sound, and the launching point for their 2011 LP Guider.
All the songs on Guider were recorded in one take, except for the album’s first song “Superstition”. As Brian Case explained to the Draw Us Lines blog, “We had just come off of a tour. We loaded out of the van into the studio, so we were in good form. We didn’t have a lot of time.” Recording over the tapes that had contained Lux, the band’s well-honed economy was starting to show-up in the song structures, as well. Tracks like “Not Romantic” and “New Fast” were akin to Lux‘s “No Other” in that they had pared things down to the simplest elements, using these building blocks in repetitive ways to build tension and release. “No Other” had been so slowed and striped down as to deliver it’s refrain monosyllabically, and on Guider‘s “New Fast”, the guitar lead would be delivered in single chords, as Case’s vocals sounded like a monochromatic drone. In addition, the band’s penchant for melt-your-face squalls of guitar was still evident! On the title track “Guider” the band thrashes around on giant walls of sound, riding the wild waves with ease and delight, and “Revisiting”, the albums fifteen minute closer, is an apocalyptic slab of music that seems intent upon burning down all that had come before it in a purging bonefire of guitar!
Soon after recording Guider, Disappears collaborated with their friends Jeremy Lemos and Matt Clark of the noise-duo White/Light in an impromptu recording session at Lemos home studio. Also present was Steve Shelley, longtime drummer of Sonic Youth, and a friend of Lemos. The collaboration would prove fruitful for Disappears with Steve Shelley deciding to join the band on their tour to support the release of Guider, and eventually becoming a member of the group for good.
With Steve Shelley in the ranks, the band would quickly begin writing the songs for Pre Language, their March 1st release. Recorded at Sonic Youth’s Hoboken studio, Echo Canyon West, and mixed by indie-rock heavyweight John Congleton, the album finds the band pushing their minimalist aesthetic and repetitive approach to new and difficult limits. If on past albums you could hear the band working through where they’d been, their influences, what they’d learned playing with 90 Day Men, The Ponys, and Boas, by Pre Language the band has fully emerged, seemingly wary of relying upon some of the sonic touchstones they’d grown to use so well in the past. In particular, Case, Van Herik, and bassist Damon Carruesco seem intent to push themselves further into new territory through a further concision of their musical language. The result of “Revisiting”, Guider‘s 15 minute closing track, was not so much about, as Pitchfork’s Nick Neyland calls it, “pushing their music into an audacious new space”, as much as a purging of their lexicon in an attempt to go beyond it!
The effects of this are immediately evident on Pre Language‘s opening track, “Replicate”, where a palpable air of sublimation is necessary to keep “different damage/suppressed/but managed”, and that is mirrored by rigorously aligned bass and drums that hammer at each other until sparks fly, and Case’s vocals emerge with cold swagger to posit, “new thoughts/or new fake/is it replicate?” “Minor Patterns” also follows this reductionist model to stark results, as does the brutal, slow building tension of “Joa”, which is finally unleashed in Case’s unnerving rant about “states of grace”! Interestingly, while the track “Love Drug” is also cut from a similar cloth, repetitive refrains here circulate rather then seeming to crash down in slow motion from above, and the result becomes dirge-like in it’s revolving, inward motion.
On Pre Language, Disappears also sheds that “wall of sound” that had been such a part of their sonic strategy in the past, opting this time for a more austere production approach where dueling guitars, bass, and drums seem to hold each other in wary company. Now, when at their noisiest, each instrument retains it’s tonal integrity rather than bleeding together into a towering inferno of sound. The music is still big, but now we can hear a fierce interplay of guitar between Case and Van Herik, often, alternately soaring and thrashing, while bass and drums stalk their prey with menacing exactitude. In the announcement for Pre Language this past December, the band explained of the album, “Direct allusions to Philip K. Dick, James Baldwin, and Joan of Arc sit side by side with songs about the lows of life and the characters that permeate it.” Indeed, Disappears have laid down an unflinching journey into the extremes of being, and fans of Philip K. Dick’s existentially harrowing work would surely find themselves in good company!