Review Summary: Truth bleeds.
When Lane Shi collapses on stage, she takes the whole audience with her. The emotional load that the voice of Elizabeth Colour Wheel burdens night after night is not meant for the occasional customer. It is a taxing experience for everyone involved, mostly for their souls. But the truth is that, once you have come through their explosive set, once you have been exposed to the uncalled bursts of fury and the droning dementia, you realize the precious gift you have been given: a gift of honesty. A currency that nowadays is as frequent as a herd of unicorns galloping a rainbow.
ECW is a band that can go from Bent Knee to Oathbreaker in a matter of ten seconds, exhausting their fire to the point of becoming a deranged mirror of Slint's Spiderland
at will. It's just one of the many deceiving tricks used to build momentum before the next charge against your emotional barrier. Shi's voice is the agonizing rambling of a hypothetical retired cabaret singer having a nostalgic meltdown in the darkest corner of a jazz club. Just when you think alcohol has drained her last drop of willpower, she will crush her glass with her fingers pointing at you with a bleeding hand while she becomes a vengeful banshee. The band scores her mood swings with telepathic accuracy, emphasizing the drone and the doom in pieces like the final minutes of opener "Pink Palm".
, ECW have cut a slice or two of the unforgiving noise that reigned on their previous EP, Queen Tired
, a collection of four tracks that lured San Francisco's dark music curators The Flenser (Have a Nice Life, Street Sects), and convinced them to sign them up for a full-length release. Seth Manchester, who had previously worked with The Body to conceive the magnificent I tried to fight it but I can't any longer
last year, has done an excellent job in capturing the band's incendiary performance. The production is devoid of anything that doesn't happen on stage, which results in a final product hardly contained in its vessel, due to as much rage as fidelity to what the band is about.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel is a project difficult to categorize. They are certainly comfortable with noise and distortion filling the room and bringing everyone to the brink of madness, but they also delight themselves in long unwinding passages of clean guitars and encumbered drumming ala Neurosis. Songs like "Hide Behind (Emmett's Song)" speak in shoegaze tongues and punk rock beats, while grunge homages like "23" explode in post rock ecstasies mid-track. "Life of a Flower" is some sort of doom meets punk (or vice versa) and "34" erupts a blast beat from the get go that makes Shi go fully mental, ending the track with unforeseen violence. Two interludes, "Somnambulist" and "Bedrest" serve as seldom breathers, the first one sounds as if Grouper was trying to communicate through the static like a poltergeist, and the latter is a healing lullaby of broken amp tubes looping an alluring guitar melody.
is like a haunted house, where every room tells a different story but none of them meets a predictable ending. On the contrary, it's an extremely volatile album that demands focus and sharp senses to be traversed. It's also a thrilling experience that feeds on the impromptu temperament of ECW's music, a display of human sensibilities that don't need theatrics to convey its message. Their energy as a band already bleeds through the speakers with unruly intensity and, sometimes, this is more than enough to leave a mark on those willing to listen.