Human Impact – Human Impact

Posted: 3 March 2020 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

Ipecac Recordings – 13th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s inevitable that a city the size of New York would throw up a large quantity of bands. Big cities tend to simply by virtue of the fact it’s more likely there’ll be likeminded individuals to collaborate with, as well as an audience who’ll appreciate even the nichest of styles. But as a city, New York is a place of extremely, of polarities, and so is all things. A cultural melting pot, a city of dreams a disappointment, a lifemaker and a lifebreaker.

The 80s No Wave threw up a host of bands who captured the gritty realities of living in a city where the pace of life is relentless, and conveyed the drudgery of life at the bottom of the pile, for who, life isn’t about swanky parties in oft apartments, but 12-hour shifts in low-paid jobs that rely on tips just to cover the rent for a grimy, cockroach-infested one-bed hellhole. Bands like Swans, Unsane, and Cop Shoot Cop soundtracked the grim realities of the everyday: not so much the seedy underbelly, as the day-to-day reality of the masses.

As the press release notes, ‘Human Impact’s first recordings are a dark mirror held up to the band’s collective pre-history – the sound and story of Unsane, Swans, Cop Shoot Cop, and New York City itself. It’s sound is cinematic post-industrial filth rock, a dozen run down subway stops away from recognizable civilisation, as futuristic as it is grounded in its sordid heritage. The result is a potent, hard-boiled distillation of this sonic ethos’. It’s a fair summary, and the album is every bit as hard-hitting as the parts and the sum intimate

Released as the first single (although what actually constitutes a single these days seems to be increasingly vague), the six-minute ‘November’ stood as a statement of the band’s intent, and serves the same purpose in opening the album: it’s a grainy-mid-tempo grindout built around a nagging, woozy bass that has hints of broken jazz chords and it loops around itself and weaves through jagged shards of twisted guitar. Second advance release, ‘E605’ (a highly toxic insecticide) crashes in immediately after, making for twin-pronged attack by way of an opening salvo: it’s slower, steelier, bringing the grey monotone nihilism of Unsane and blending it with the relentlessness of Swans. The result is paranoid and claustrophobic.

While pinning itself into a dingy, piss-spattered, litter-strewn corer of a back alley in a cityscape dominated by surveillance and oppressive government, there’s a fair range of texture, tone, and tempo across the album as a whole, if not necessarily much by way of levity. ‘Protester’ has the swagger and swing of Unsane at their best, but brings with it a melody and a synth doodle that brings some kind of levity, at least in comparative terms and in context, and the result is vaguely reminiscent of another New York-based act, Girls Against Boys.

‘Respirator’ gets a bit Killing Joke (certainly no bad thing), while ‘Cause’ is almost poppy, in a throbbing industrial goth sense of the word, like Ministry covering The Cure, darkly brooding, bleak, brimming with a sense of apocalypse.

Human Impact’s sound isn’t heavy in most common musical sense, and certainly not in the metal sense; the guitars aren’t absolutely raging with distortion, it’s not sludgy or doomy, and nor is it overtly industrial for the most part. Nor is it heavy in the 34BPM thud of early 80s Swans. And yet, as a listening experience, Human Impact is a heavy one, It’s the relentless bleakness which has a cumulative and harrowing effect, articulating the emptiness of a sustained level of defeat, fury, and resentment at the injustices of the world. These are dark, difficult, and unpleasant times, and Human Impact capture it in the most unsparing detail.

AA

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