There are many ways to do heavy. It’s easy to tune low with thickly gauged strings and turn the gain up on an Orange amp. It’s harder to create an album that is emotionally heavy. One that is heavy due to the vulnerability involved. This is the kind of heavy the California duo Wreck and Reference have created on their third album. They continue to pit synths against a drum kit, but gone are some of the more distorted samples. They have continued to their sonic evolution and have expanded the twilight of their horizons into more varied forms of electronic experimentation. “Powders,” the first track, finds them opening old wounds and exploring pain by replaying torturous memories. This builds into screamed vocals that break up the more detached tone of the narrative.
Label: The Flenser
This album has an interesting mix – highlighted in the floating synths of “Flight, but Not Metaphor,” which have more of a kraut-rock throb to them, with the drums relegated to the background. Several vocal colors are spread on to the canvas this time around. A coarse quality, not unlike that of Tom Waits, is present in the song’s more urgent moments. They are followed by hints of the murky “trap” 808 sound thumping in toward the end of the song. The more screamed vocals are used less on this album, though when they do emerge, they prove effective in transitioning you into the harder sonics of “Ascend.” A more plaintive vocal that reminds me of King Missile is one of the album’s most frequent narrative voices. The mood goes gray with the ambiance of “Liver,” as reflective prose is dripped over the weeping of synths to set the stage for the gnashing of teeth, with the more cathartic vocal lines layered behind the dead pan pondering. This sets the tone for many of the songs that follow. I would not say they are adhering to a formula, but sharing a similar emotional current.
The throat-torturing yells of “Languish” welcomes the barrage of abusive drums and Phillip Glass-like string synth pieces. This album loves to lock you into stoned drone and dim the lights. They wallow in their more morose tendencies with the post-punk croon to “Unwant” that ends the album by floating you out into a place where spaced-out dark wave meets atmospheric prog rock. If you were to compare it to their 2014 album, Want, it is not as aggressive or as dark. It also isn’t the band grasping for mainstream acceptance either; they are comfortable with who they are and choosing some more delicate colors to adorn themselves with this time around. If you are a fan of Wreck and Reference, then this will meet your expectations. For first timers, it’s going to be an interesting introduction, but chances are if you are reading this blog in the first place then you already have an interest in the more depressive forms of expression; if this is pop music, then it forgot to takes its meds and lies bleeding in the bathtub waiting for you. The Flenser is releasing this today, you can find it on their webstore.