Pre Language will not excite many not already warmed up to an icy style. Yet if its influences rank high among your favorites, this album may satisfy you as well.
Wait long enough and one wonders why those old LPs were traded in, and then those CDs junked when LimeWire popped up and now whatever electronic file gets abandoned for a stream on a smartphone. Another generation learns from punk, Goth, New Order and Sonic Youth. New York outfit Disappears’ third long-player introduces Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums; it starts with insistent pounding straight out of Stephen Morris’ playbook for Mancunian unhappy Mondays anorak crowds circa 1978. It erupts into a jittery guitar riff and doomy bass in an echoed monolith of produced, chilly sound. If that intrigues you, this will delight you.
Disappears began with the albums Lux and Guider. They sharply aligned to their gloomy template, angling their harsh sounds to mechanical rhythms and severe vocals. Not for the everyday listener, but for those of a certain age, and those who they may have influenced, ears remain perked for a return of sounds sorely missed these days.
“Replicate” signals the 2012 intentions of Disappears. They emulate those who made the original robotic frameworks to house what seems human in its fragility and sustained heartbeat underneath a severe first glance. The title track opens up more as a post-punk approach, but the song ramps it down to a more streamlined entry, edging in a more accessible guitar fill over a more conventional beat. “Hibernation Sickness” continues this direction adroitly, and “Minor Patterns” plays into the delay features of a Martin Hannett-era late-‘70s production. However, even for an admirer of that chilly style, it may wear down less ardent hearers well before its four-plus minutes end. It’s a self-selecting audience for this astringent mood, certainly.
“All Gone White,” with a shivery guitar, grim vocal and an evocative title, hearkens to Goth, while “Joa” snakes through related atmospheres. “Fear of Darkness” conjures up the Brooklyn label Sacred Bones’ sound of ’00s revivalist bands nodding back 30-odd years. But it comes out of the darkroom immersion into eerie light as rather monochrome. “Love Drug” lurches about until its final minute, when a danceable rhythm emerges, a rarity on this record so far. This allows Shelley to show off a bit more than many songs allow him to, in their rigidity.
Songs tend to be three-to-five minutes; there’s a “late Joy Division” mood dominating here, in the shifts of emotion instrumentally behind what continues to be a severe (but appropriate) vocal alternating commands and chants. On earlier albums, the Velvet Underground, Krautrock, the Fall, post-punk, drone and space rock enriched or at least drew comparisons to the contents; this time, Pre Language appears to want to follow Ian Curtis more closely.
“Brother Joliene” turns to a distorted, downbeat twist recalling Mark E. Smith and the Fall—this song prefers to stick to a stern style, until it makes a clever shift to releasing the tension into the guitar surge. The track ends this short album intelligently. Pre Language will not excite many not already warmed up to an icy style. Yet if its influences rank high among your favorites, this album may satisfy you as well.