I like to think of him as a kindred, younger spirit to Shellac’s Steve Albini: well-thought and often intentionally shocking, not for the enjoyment of shocking people, but because shock is often a useful tool in creating provocative art.
Prior to listening to “Depth & Current,” the first LP from the eponymous band comprised by Harris, drummer Scott Twitchell and Derek Lemke, I “liked” their music in the casual way that I “like” the bulk of locally produced music: I enjoyed it more for the knowledge that I was acquainted with the artist or producer than I actually cared for what was coming out of the speakers.
While I felt this tepidity for their 2009 EP, “Arms,” the feeling’s been replaced by full-bore fear and excitement for this new album, which sucks and swirls heavy, noisy mixes of grungy guitar and shoegazey vocals into the same dark hinterland where Albini and My Bloody Valentine get plastered and swap dirty jokes. It’s a beefed-up, scary improvement and a terrific recording in its own right.
Stark, ominous guitars crackle across album opener “Chkill,” accompanied by some scene-setting spoken word about a place where “pagans go to have a good time.” While “Depth & Current”’s scenes and moods do change track to track, it’s this one that introduces the listener to the thematic notion of haunting, which Harris’s otherworldly vocals constantly remind of. Much of the lyrics are indeterminate, or otherwise shoegazey, blurred and stretched by effects that give the sense that the singing is coming from the bottom of a very deep, stone well.
When you can tell what’s going on lyrically, it’s not just gloom, doom and woe, however. What unfolds is an individualist’s success story (see “Pick Yourself Up” and “Side by Side”), the notion of triumph reinforced by the heavy, deep echo of Harris’s voice. The gloom, doom and woe is coming from outside, from a society in turmoil.
Midway through the record, “Lost” marches along at a funereal pace that it doesn’t deviate from, with vocals to match. “Red Haute Sects” packs a greater sonic wallop than its punny name implies. “Minefield” sounds like just that.
Such sonic force is sure to kill live. Dec. 8 can’t come soon enough.