That illusive desert groove.
Ever since Dave Grohl gave his public endorsement to Kyuss in 1992, the world has binged and sometime ignored that particular brand of bodily drone. Unlike most genres, desert rock was never flooded with pretenders or one hit wonders, despite its overnight popularity. It never went the way of Grunge. The robot rock of Joshua Homme and his ilk remain in the periphery even when in the spotlight. The Bristol based band, Spectres, aims to deliver those wide-open rides with their debut album Dying.
If the title and cover don’t quite get the message across, let me be clear: This album wants nothing more than to unsettle you in your easy chair. The opening track “Drag” features a minute of disparate noise not unlike something you’d hear coming from a slaughter house run by Mike Patton. Then, the gloves come off. “Where Flies Sleep”, the album’s single, is a shambling corpse at break neck speed granting no escape. Howling feedback and a driving thrum make you squeal with joy as you start calling your friends and loved ones to tell them, tell them all, that the groove hath been found and it came back corrupted.
And that’s just the way the boys from Spectres keep it.
Dry drum tracks marks a subtle transition from a dark lit highway to a desert afternoon spent drifting off into ennui. At times lead singer Joe Hatt becomes so drenched in reverb that it achieves what bands like Om have to do with an entire band, with just a tinge of that melodious melancholy that bands like Archive showcase intermittently between deep house mash-ups. Even during the seven and a half minute mid-album opus “This Purgatory”, subtle drum work gets a post-production bump that takes a keen ear and a patient engineer to recognize as essential. For a debut album, the production value does a lot more than most DIY band.(What DIY roots?) Spectres doesn’t sound like an album that has been over produced (the usual method of achieving driving walls of sound) and instead feels scrapped together, at times even ludicrously assembled on a canvas of noise you can’t wait to claw your way through.
Where Dying fails is it’s insistence on one aspect of subject matter, schizophrenic or otherwise. (????) Sections of longer tracks like “Blood in the Cups” can at times feel starved and thinly conceived, and parts of “Family” would be right at home on soundtracks to movies like Queen of the Damned and Ghost Ship. While we should encourage bands like Spectres to experiment with the low moan drone, we shouldn’t forget the harsh lesson of Mudvayne. (which is?)
But like it’s avenues of expression Dying does something most American noise groove bands don’t do: commit. Let’s be fair, if you ever wanted a reason NOT to move to London, these Bristol based movers are all the reason you need. Not because the album is bad, it’s quite good, but because this album is a pure product of a country with a consistently beige sky.
Perhaps owing to the strain of its subject matter, final track “Sea of Trees” is a breath of shadow laden air that John Diliberto of NPR’s Echoes fame would be proud to feature. Brian Jonestown’s Massacre style guitar and trembling delay wobble in and out of lonely Diasporas. Its plinky strings, spacious opening, and easy rider bass line add something of a mystery to the album’s final send off.
But let’s cut the bullshit. (Amen)
Ultimately, this album does something we in the desert so desperately want – a familiar voice in a fly-line void of hard rock pretenders. (What is a flyline void?) And in that regard this album might just piss you off in all the right ways. Like the nigh drowning man on the cover, broke-toothed and naked, you’ll find yourself waiting to recover from a frustration you had forgotten – angry, tense, and just a little bit inviting. Dying is an album that asks you to drive to the cliff’s edge and tell yourself not to jump as it smiles at you from the base.