Review Summary: A desperation sampler
Over the last two decades, screamo has cultivated an arsenal of sonic weaponry to produce distinct variations on one specific emotional affect: desperation. Throughout its many expansions, its affairs with jazz, progressive, and post-rock, screamo’s singular capacity for representing desperation in musical form has remained constant. In fact, it’s the genre’s versatility that has allowed it to explore all the different ways that desperation can sonically manifest. Orchid’s bursts of cacophony personified desperation as a howling, uncontrollable whirlwind. Envy’s balance between the brightly melodic and the furiously dissonant utilized desperation (mixed with a tinge of hope) as a motivator to propel it forward. Funeral Diner and Maths chose the most somber of chords to evoke the point where desperation gives way to despondency. And so on.
What’s especially impressive about last
, the sophomore effort from Richmond, VA screamo outfit ostraca, is how it showcases many of the various forms of desperation that screamo can and has conveyed without ever obviously cribbing from any specific band that came before it. It’s not particularly innovative, but it certainly cannot easily be described as “Neil Perry meets Envy” or “Ampere with a touch of Hot Cross.” The most direct similarity between ostraca and the bands mentioned above is not in the ingredients but in the end result, that desperate emotional affect and all the ways it can be produced. “The Orchard” and “Confronting Imagism” both lash out in dissonant, chaotic storms of range. Bittersweet chord progressions on “Childlike” and “Worn Away” imbue the desperate mood with a heartbreaking depth of pain. Even the calm of “Nausea” carries an uneasy melancholy that slowly builds to frustration that finally, furiously, releases. Opener “Waiting for the Crash” transitions from a pummeling of noise to a tragic dirge and back in quick yet natural succession. In all, last
doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it makes brilliant use of the tools that screamo has at its disposal.