The Belgian hardcore scene has spanned a number of great acts throughout the ’00s, with very diverse sounds and undertaking quite different paths. So when you find out that there is a collaboration going on with members of Rise and Fall and Oathbreaker, it is really intriguing to try and guess what the end result will be. With Partisan, Cedric Goetgebuer and Ivo Bebrabandere along with Thijs Goethais step away from their hardcore roots and into the domain of post-punk. However, as is the case with the hardcore quality of the Belgian scene going a bit on the darker side of the genre, so is the case with Partisan’s post-punk. The music of the band takes on a number of different attributes of the post-punk scene, including the noise input of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the cold bleakness of Killing Joke, the stark detachment of Joy Division and the drive of The Wipers, which are just some of the aspects that are presented in this self-titled EP.
The main of Partisan‘s focus is on this dark post-punk vibe, which is spread out across the whole EP. The veil of darkness that Partisan can cover their music with becomes apparent from the opening track, as the band acquires the new wave structure, but still placing it in a state of blissful bleakness. “Unhappy People” shares that quality, with a more mysterious aura being brought forth at times, giving the music a more dim perspective.
It all comes down to the use of melodies, with Partisan being able to place the right phrases at the right time, filling the EP with these tones. The clean parts of the opening track, appearing once the distortion has subsided, construct with a dreamlike quality the soundscapes of the track, while the more laid back approach of “Unhappy People” sees Partisan unleashing stunning melodies and further developing them. With “Children In Love,” the band has an acoustic guitar part take the lead, combined with the great vocal delivery alongside it to give the track an otherworldly moment. On this EP, the vocals do a fantastic job of awakening the spirit of post-punk, capturing the depth and tone of some of the major acts of the scene, and the way in which they are balanced with the instruments is flawless. “Public Humiliation” is an example of an interesting part where the vocals are placed further in the background, but still manage to have a great impact on the track.
Partisan’s melodies travel all the way into the psychedelic domain, with the closing track of the album especially making great use of such parts to drop its acidic characteristics. It feels as if the soundscapes of the track melt away, slowly dissolving into a surrealistic version of themselves. But that is probably the gentler approach that Partisan take on their music, since the influence of noise in this work is quite substantial. The heavier parts of the opening track bring to mind acts such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, in terms of the type of distortion applied to the guitars, granting a first glimpse of this mentality, with the solo part later on solidifying it.
From that point on, it seems as if the EP gradually gets more aggressive in its application of distortion. “Unhappy People” carries on in the same tone, which might not be full-blown distortion, but it is able to nicely cover the music with its veil. The same applies for “Children In Love,” but in that instance the form that the guitars take on is even more towering and imposing, while the switch from the acoustic guitar parts back to the noisier self of Partisan has a natural progression to it and does not appear abrupt or aggressive, but rather gives a soothing quality to the unleashed melodies. However, “Public Humiliation” features some of the most destructive bursts of distortion that are found within this EP. The heavy distortion on the guitars and the fuzzed out bass cause everything to fade out of view, while every following burst takes the form of an even more punishing blow.
There have been a number of bands recently that dwell within the post-punk past, Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures or Vaura being some great examples. Partisan might be new to this, but all the characteristics in their self-titled EP are spot on. The manner in which they are able to balance distortion and melody, the structure of their soundscapes, their noise tendencies and that sorrowful quality of their tracks are just some of the areas these guys focus on and excel. Everything clicks on this EP, and it makes you really look forward to what might come next.