What a great label Kranky is! Hailing from Chicago and hosting some Sloucher favourites such as Windy and Carl and , the label goes from strength to strength. Possibly the key to this success is good timing and impeccable taste . And being a bit clever choosing unknown artists and giving them a platform. Lots of lovely vinyl too. When I was chasing up the mighty Godspeed You Black Emperor years back they were on Kranky. This led to Labradford then Pan Am and it goes on.
Anyhow here come Disappears, some cats (also from the Windy City) who I am not familiar with. Pre Language features a secret weapon. It’s only Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth on drums! Guess what? The drums leap up and slap you right on the nose from the word go. ‘Replicate’ is the opener and sets the scene with a metronomic Krautrock beat, sneering vocals and crashing guitar.
The title track is Lou Reed but harder and dirtier (no, I didn’t think that was possible either). The tone is set for the rest of the album. It’s good. Hard, brash driving stuff egged on by the aforementioned percussion. The engaging quality that does not allow the record to become boring (and it could) are firstly the arrangements and second the spatial approach to the recording process.
For me, this album has a European feel but unlike, say Primal Scream’s excellent XTRMNTR, the production is sparse and really uncluttered. XTRMNTR battered you into submission, which was probably the intention, where as here the magic is found in the minimalist approach in the song construction and mix which allows space and clarity to the final production.(Bands take
note). The relentless, almost techno approach is reigned in to a tight groove. We are on the autobahn and not stopping for a burger!
‘Joa’ (track 6) has me in a trance but they drop it down and bring in a guitar riff to end. Hypnotic stuff and we havn’t even got to ‘Love Drug’ a monster track that has a Can like feel and builds with a restrained intensity – did I mention the drums are amazing?
D’yknow this could be the kind of album Joy Division might have made had Ian stayed with us.
‘Pre Language’. From the dark corner seat away from the bar I survey the handful of drinkers scattered around the grubby candle lit tables. Uncollected glasses herd together like scared cattle. A blonde ponytail pulls on a Becks, I avoid her bored glance. No eye contact. The noisy ones parked in the next booth are obviously in a band, bobbing and jiving with each other with that annoying manner cocky kids, who are going to make it big, have. They try to cajole the barkeep to put some tunes on but he’s having none of it. Finally they drink up and grab an assortment of coats and record bags and follow the blonde out back to the smoking area. Only then do I see the mp3 player nestled among the empties.
I’m a Ninja slipping from my stool. Past the table, the player slipped in my pocket, I’m out of the door and into the dank dark New Jersey night. Crossing the street I huddle in a doorway and roll up. The sign above the door is hard to read, a single bulb flickers, ready to expire, I can just make out ‘Echo Canyon West Studios’. No idea what this means. I spark up, turn my collar against the cold and get ready for the late night walk home. I remember the nicked player in my pocket and congratulate myself on the opportunism. Wondering if there is any music on the thing (listen before you pawn is good advice) I stick the phones in and press play.
Fuck thats some shit hot drumming.
The road ahead glistens in the dark neon drizzle ……