Review Summary: The best post-rock album since, well... Bark Psychosis's previous major release.
When a band produces a highly influential and groundbreaking album, all efforts released afterwards are going to be compared to that work no matter how different or unrelated the two are. With post-rock/shoegaze outfit Bark Psychosis fronted by Graham Sutton, their landmark album was Hex.
Supposedly a pioneering force in the realm of post-rock and one of the first to be coined the term, though admittedly sharing little similarity with modern contemporaries and being more along the lines of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock, Hex
turned out to be one of the most successful debuts to ever hit the genre. After setting the bar so high, one could only expect a sophomore slump.
Well... a lot can change after a ten year hiatus. After having several members drop off the Bark Psychosis roster due to the tremendous stress involved in creating Hex
and Sutton taking time out to record under his drum’n’bass moniker Boymerang, Sutton finally reassembled a completely new lineup to record this breathtaking giant, Codename: Dustsucker
. The album continues in the same vein of its predecessor’s dreamy blend of shoegaze, jazz, and post-rock, while throwing in some refreshing new elements and polished production.
One of Codename’s
most welcoming characteristics is its retention of the debut’s unrivaled chill factor. This album is, quite simply, silky smooth
. The flow of the first four tracks is so fluid that it’s uncanny. “From What Is Said To When It’s Read” opens up the album with a slow-burning exercise in ethereal guitar and vocal layering, then slips into the jazzy “The Black Meat,” drifts into the sinister “Miss Abuse,” and slides into the breezy “400 Winters” before you know it. The song structures themselves are enough to behold. Gone are the meandering airy passages that manifested themselves in Hex,
and in their place are seamless transitions and dense atmospheres. In “The Black Meat,” the band weaves through a jazzy, reverb-laden section complete with slick drumming courtesy of Talk Talk’s own Lee Harris, soon coming to an abrupt halt just before the full band comes in with keys, acoustic guitars, and a muted trumpet solo that all eventually melts into a cascade of ambient synths.
While ultimately relaxing as a whole, Codename
isn’t without its share of unsettling moments. The brief interlude of “Dr. Innocuous-Ketamoid” signals the coming of a darker, somewhat more disturbing second half. “INQB8TR,” the album’s centerpiece, rests on subtle dynamic increases of intensity that rise and fall like a tide before an oncoming storm. Scattered about the album is a lingering industrial influence, such as the pounding rhythm, noisy feedback-ridden guitar solo, and haunting outro of “Shapeshifting.” Closing out the album is “Rose,” a track that begins with an unnerving minimalistic intro before keys shift it into a mournful light, the only lyrics being a repetition of a woman saying “vertrauen mir,” or “trust me.”
meets and exceeds the standards set by its seminal ancestor and stands as a testament to Graham Sutton’s ability to craft dreamy soundscapes and execute them flawlessly. It’s a shame that this album is so criminally overlooked, because the myriad of Explosions-ripping soft-to-loud bands could definitely learn a thing or two from this.