I always think it’s a good sign when iTunes identifies albums genres as “Unclassifiable” as happens with this one. It is a fair point in this case as I would really struggle to define exactly what field these guys operate in. Opener “The Taste and Stink of Old Coins” throws you right in at the deep end with erratic guitars and drums that fall in and out of sync with each other. This might sound awful but it creates a sort of organic sound that is obtuse but compulsive. Vocals first appear as a Mark E Smith mutter but quickly develop into “scorched throat” shoutiness that is the only sensible vocal style to adopt with such fractured sounds. Second track “Gukurahundi” opens with spare picked guitar lines that are fleshed out with a driving but slightly off centre drum roll / beat, with some more background muttering that is effective but subservient to the music. This all leads to a manic face off between guitars and drums that vie with each other for attention but keep any kind of denouement well in hand. There are elements of Dillinger Escape Plan (without the blind ferocity) in the circling mathematical nature of the track. Its all about delayed gratification, which finally stars to arrive three minutes in with a sort of morse-code, disco-punk, mid-section of epic proportions which fades away into lo-fi jazz noodling. By the way lo-fi jazz noodling is a good thing, if you were wondering. Third track “Needs” really highlights the percussive nature of Nitkowski’s music, with their excellent drummer providing a lot of the structure to the music, which is then fleshed out and driven onwards by the guitars. It is incredibly asymmetric music, always chasing its own tail and fearful of anything like repetition or obviousness. Verse-chorus-verse this is not. Fuck knows how they would play it live.
At this point we are given a quick breather with “Mutha Terracist” one of those “lets muck about and see what funny noises we can get away with” tracks fashioned from some field recordings and simple studio wizardry. Not much to say about it but it did give my overworked brain a chance for a rest. “Two Above Zero” appears after this, shimmering with heat haze and a simple but exotic guitar line that made me rock back and forward like a mentaloid. More sparse vocals from the Mark E Smith school of thought appear about half way through, and lead us into a skewed and aggressive conclusion. “Rev Kid Perv Rap” sets out with what seems to be the Nitkowski trademark sound; syncopated guitar and drum parts that slowly build into the song proper with more lopsided guitars and whizz-kid drumming, but it seems to lack some of the direction of the other tracks. Maybe six minutes of this is just too much and my old and frazzled brain did not have enough RAM to cope, but this track never seems to coalesce into a satisfying whole, opting to remain a series of fascinating components.
Our second interval then appears in the form of the neolithic “Scrubbers”. The shambolic metronome approach is applied to a track that bumps along with a tom, kick and rimshot teamed with a minimal “air” synths. Simple, odd and fun. Next song “The Beveridge Report” is the track that introduced me to the band and it is a great starting point, showcasing all the things that they are good at to full effect. Atonal and racked with ADHD, it is a neurotic and slithery track that would still allow a good mosh for audiences that pay attention. An epic mid-section with truly pained sounding vocals and then all of a sudden were noodling again. Short and sweet, brash and memorable.
More classic song titles with the awesomely titled “Bite My Tongue And Do It For The Dogs” which really does sound like they threw the singer down a well for a week before lowering him a microphone. I hope he’s alright. While I have enjoyed everything thrown at me, it occurs to me that by this point in the album I am becoming slightly exhausted. It is music that requires constant attention to really extract the best out of it. Casual listening is not an option and my ears are starting to tire from the effort. “Alabaster Drive” is another entirely competent slab of twitching-muscle, art-rock but something has just occured to me. It seems like this band do not have a bass guitar. I could be wrong, but if I’m right they’ve managed to create a really full and memorable record on just two guitars and a set of drums and I didn’t even notice till the end of the last proper song. I think that makes me pretty fucking cloth-eared for someone who fancies themselves as a critic. Final track “Get A Job” is another slice of field recording and messing about with instruments that tails off with a funereal organ.
I really enjoyed this album. It is challenging without being pretentious, aggressive without being meat-headed and everything about it from the artwork to the pacing is pretty much perfect. It is maybe a little jumpy in some respects, and I suspect that the average Nitkowski gig might be a little bit of a bearded sausage-fest, but this band should be watched. If the world doesn’t suddenly implode in the next twenty minutes then they should have a very interesting and critically lauded career. Will they sell many records? Who knows, but they fucking should.