Should win over aficionados of industrial noise and avant-garde.
Flogging A Dead One Horse Town is the partnership of Tim Roberts (guitars/vocals/samples) and David Shannon (drums/vocals), who hail from Otumetai and Christchurch in New Zealand respectively. If you can’t judge a book by its cover, maybe you can judge a band by its name. So what’s in a name like Flogging A Dead One Horse Town? Well, if you came expecting catchy hooks and pretty melodies, prepare to be bitterly disappointed. Their self-titled EP is a rugged, savage, lo-fi collection.
This EP takes six cuts from the band’s previous releases. The opening instrumental “Romantic Duck Salad: Part A – Glazed” sets the tone. The relentless drone of guitar amplifier feedback – layered and looped until it starts to sound like it’s tripping over itself – is underpinned by a simple, steady but constant drum beat. Towards the end of the song, a buzzsaw-like, fuzzed out, one-string riff rears its ugly head. There’s nothing even remotely romantic about it. There’s nothing glazed either. It’s the type of track you’d expect to hear over the opening scene of an indie slasher flick.
Another instrumental, “Meteorite Debris,” is driven by an angular, atonal and repetitive yet somehow infectious guitar riff. The off-kilter groove is interrupted by jarring string bends before giving way to them completely. Militant in tone, the timbre calls to mind Steve Albini’s fuzz-box noise-punk bands, and frankly all of the more deranged Touch and Go acts.
“Dork Tomahawk” is slightly less intense and plays more to the textural side of the band’s sound. Odd harmonics introduce the song, saturated in distortion and reverb, while more sampled buzzing sounds fill the remaining space. A slight melodic departure, but a welcome one at this stage of the EP until a brief spike in volume and intensity around the halfway mark, and the buzzing sounds build to an overpowering yet hypnotic crescendo.
Vocals are introduced on the penultimate tracks, the grammatically shambolic “I can see. Your god damn right I can see.” Pulsating, disorienting samples make way for skittering drums and a droning melody. The vocals, possibly recorded underwater, seem to be in the form of a chant or mantra. The sonic textures unfold, leaving a sole voice bellowing “I/ I have to pray.” Pray for what? Who knows? Maybe that racket and the uncomfortable, confusing feeling it leaves behind.
Meanwhile, the dense, nearly nine-minute “For relief, I turn back to the folds of my trousers” uses a vocal sample that expresses doubt at the prospect of nuclear war but worries about workplace automation, unemployment and other issues. Live vocals are difficult to discern besides a repetition of the title in a monotone voice and the phrase “I repeat yet again.” All of this is set against a backdrop of sparse drumming, mostly slow drum rolls and the occasional cymbal crash alongside oscillating, bubbling, whirring synths and the inconsistent hum of a detuned guitar saturated in fuzz. Closing track “An ____, an and a nut you may eat after a ____”, is quite simply a humorous vocal sample followed by a barrage of noise.
Flogging A Dead One Horse Town is a compelling listen, taking enough cues from Krautrock, industrial music and harsh noise and putting a unique spin on it to make things a little more than one-dimensional–but only just. If there is an artistic concept, or a point, it’s hard to tell. As an introduction to the band, it should win over aficionados of industrial noise and avant-garde music, but will hardly satisfy those familiar with the group or its subgenre.