These Are Powers | Terrific Seasons (Hoss)

cd_these-are-powers.jpgIt may be a sonic assault, but the emphasis is on stellar soundmaking, not aural bullying. There’s a difference, see.







I’ve made it one of my sacred duties to bring weird music to the attention of listeners with a taste for the unusual. When so many recordings these days sound similar or formulaic, it just seems important to zero in on that which marches to the beat of a different drummer. In the case of the debut platter by Brooklyn’s These Are Powers, that drummer is Ted McGrath, and boy, can this guy percuss. It’s a good thing, too, because These Are Powers are really freaky, and to pull off what they’ve achieved on Terrific Seasons, nothing less than musicians committed to the adventurous aesthetic would do.

McGrath’s concentrated tribal punk bashing surely makes the grade, as does Pat Noecker’s work on bass and vocals and the scary stuff done by Anna Barie on guitars and the weirder lead vocals. Noecker used to be in Liars, and there’s some of that group’s spooked, off-trail experimentalism here. Barie was in Knife Skills, a band I’m not familiar with. The press release says that TAP have been influenced by a range of elements that include "globalization, supernatural phenomena, and the prophecies of a UFO-obsessed cab driver." They call their sound "ghost punk," and it’ll do as a general indicator…there’s definitely a dark and otherworldly atmosphere that pervades their music, while it also kicks up a tremendous racket at times that few punk bands could match for intriguing musicality.

Be warned-this is raw, frenetic, bizarre stuff. But it’s utterly fucking cool if you dig masterfully performed weirdness. Exhibit A would be the 20-minute composition "Pizza Master Ice Cream Palace." This intimidating slab of sonic fury would clear the room at most parties, except for maybe a half-dozen people who’d be so mesmerized, they’d stick around to find out what it is. McGrath delivers a tour-de-force of memorable drumming over an indescribable background surge that puts you in mind of some gargantuan piece of earth-moving machinery. Meanwhile, Barie’s wild, wailing voice punctuates the mix periodically, and there’s all kinds of other creatively discordant stuff attempting to terrorize your ears. This is truly one raging cyclone of a piece, but the way it’s mixed keeps the abrasiveness at bay—it may be a sonic assault, but the emphasis is on stellar soundmaking, not aural bullying. There’s a difference, see.

Opening track "You Come With Nothing" is close to being something that rocks, although the wailed vocals and off-kilter percussion immediately announce These Are Powers as a trio not for the timid. "Makes Visible" features a propulsive beat, another distinctive metallic clanging sound and a simple guitar figure that sounds like a camp-wide call to battle for the armies of the sonic avant-garde. "Go forth and play to vanquish the MOR-saturated hordes!" this battle cry seems to shout. There are also literal war whoops in "Little Sisters of Beijing," which is only two-and-a-half minutes long, but that’s all it needs to freak you out, with its atonal riff and Cindy Wilson (B-52s)-on-amphetamines vocal yowling. The music throughout is played with utter abandon and panache, and the sound is fantastic. But it’s unlike much of anything else out there; it’s defiantly experimental, and all the better for it.

So if you like to be challenged, and even batted around by your music, TAP may be for you. These ghost punks sure got the (unholy) spirit raging through their veins. A- | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Sonic Youth, PIL, Liars

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