A Place to Bury Strangers’ brand of full-on intense noise-rock has gotten them a fair share of critical acclaim over the years. Their chaotic live shows gained them the accolade of ‘New York’s loudest band’ and their self-titled debut was a rush of guitar-heavy adrenaline, which pricked the ears of many for its revivalism of the raw feedback sounds of the 80s. But 2009’s Exploding Head still remains the band’s most accomplished work, combining elements of noise rock and shoegaze to create a mountainous beast of a sound.
Oliver Ackerman and co. have pushed the boundaries, without forgetting that vital ingredient to anything remotely listenable – melody. If Exploding Head was meant to be THE sound of APTBS, Transfixiation is altogether something very different.
The band haven’t simply rested on their previous albums’ formulae of cranking everything up to apocalyptic, not to say that Transfixiation veers too far from it. Identifiable sonic features, like the band’s ear-blistering assault of volume and razor-sharp, distorted guitars are still very much a part of their appeal. But on their latest foray into the post-shoegaze arena, Ackerman’s vocal is a lot more clear and pronounced, which works in the band’s favour.
Opening with the easing uncertainty of Supermaster’s bass-led rhythm, where Ackerman speaks ‘I’m like a child, showing anger/ weighted with guilt turned into a stranger’, the album suddenly burst into full on psycho mode with ‘Straight’ – a song that could easily soundtrack a mentalists’ gun-rampage.
Straight by A Place To Bury Strangers
Following tracks Love High and What We Don’t See tap back into the band’s earlier influences of My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain with endearing precision. The only instrumental track on the album ‘Lower Zone’ includes a pattering drums sound that evolves into an eerie oriental arpeggio.
Each song is seems like a wild contrast to one another (cemented by the varying track lengths), yet it all feels very complimentary to APTBS experimental and largely punk ethic. ‘I Will Die’ finishes off the album like a killer gazing into his own blood splattered reflection, featuring the most distorted, euphoric and under-produced sound on the album.
Transfixiation is a thrilling listen from start to finish. It has all of the traits that made APTBS great in the first place, whilst promising something different – maintaining the bands hunger for experimentalism and sonic evolution. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess.
Reviewer: Nad Khan