Morose Wreck and Reference construct cold, violent tales of isolation and pain on ‘Want’

Wreck and referenceFeeling miserable, detached, and without tangible hope is a way for going through life for some people. Not everyone has the same fortunes as you or is as happy as you are (and the opposite also can be true), and it can be healthy for us to immerse ourselves in darkness just so we can appreciate the good in our lives.

That’s why new music from Wreck and Reference always is a sobering way to realize things aren’t as bad as one imagines. These guys sound like they’re on the brink of self-destruction, if they’re not literally reporting from that area while creating their music, and the band’s new record “Want” is a volatile trip through dark emotions one cannot hope to control and violent outbursts that can be as mental as they are physical. Nothing this band does ever goes down easily or smoothly, and what they accomplish on their latest album is explosive, teetering-on-the-brink of insanity madness that captures your mind and then crushes it until the juice comes out.

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}Over the course of their two dull-length records and two smaller releases, the band of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Felix Skinner and drummer Ignat Frege have made a musical world entirely their own. They don’t fit into a genre, not nicely anyway, and while they have elements of doom, metal, hardcore, New Wave, No Wave, post-rock, and a ton of other sources, they don’t fully belong in any one of those areas. On “Want,” they push even further into abrasion, terror, and psychotic isolation, even more so than they did on “Youth” and “Content.” The vocals are angrier, more forceful, and filled with manic growls and shrieks, while musically, the palette is richer than ever before. What remains are what sound like rants of desperation and struggle to make sense with the world and things that happen to darken one’s life. The music is a reaction to that, and it’s impossible not to feel every ounce of pain and torment.

You get a heavy dose of what’s so different this time around on the monstrous, ugly opener “Corpse Museum,” that is dressed in distressed, death-like howls, weird doom clouds that blacken the area, and strange percussion. Amid echoes and buzzing melodies, Skinner imagines being gunned down in a crime of passion, and repeatedly observes something that’s “never ending, always ending, floating away.” “Apollo Beneath the Whip” pulls the vocals back to a deep croon, with somber destruction dominating and the song coming to a sudden, bleak end. “Stranger, Fill This Hole in Me” is disconcerting from its title, but then digging in, you get slow, spacey atmosphere, psychedelic lashings, eerie keys, and Skinner vowing, “I don’t want to feel.” “Bankrupt” returns to off-kilter screaming, deranged melodies, and cold keys that easily could freeze you. Noise begins to spit sparks, stinging you skin, and the slow-paced drum beats make the pace feel deliberate. “A Glass Cage for an Animal” has roiling noises, with primitive-style wailing of, “He knows the price of his apparent freedom,” like he’s an animal subject to the bars. It sounds like frozen, winter-ridden hardcore. “A Tax” trickles like a ghost, making everything uncomfortable, with drone, foggy transmissions, and vocals that go from singing to speaking to shouting.

“Flies” feel ominous and angelic, if that was a horrible, torturous thing. There is choral backing, noise that buzzes and penetrates, and numbing tones that lull you into a drug-like state of bliss. Then you’re awakened hard by the mad cries of, “With our hands out to the sky, just to surrender,” as if Skinner has endured too much pain to go on and can’t quite determine the proper avenue for his own mercy. “Convalescence” is like a damp, unwelcome draft coming through your window, with chilled, detached vocals that sound robotic, and eventually the complete disintegration of the senses. “Machine of Confusion” is a bowl of cosmic soup, gray, with all kinds of odd matter scattered about, and static-stained vocals that sound delivered from beyond. “Shallow” has a sci-fi synth edge to it, with throaty, pained vocals, weird blips, and an eventual request for information with, “Is this the end?” Closer “Apologies” is dense and soaking in organ fog, wild screams, and threads of solemnity. It feels like the last whims of a beaten man, with repeated cries of, “Surrender!” that both seem like a plea and an observation of the narrator’s crumbled mind.

Each Wreck and Reference release is its own beast and also feels like its being followed by one just as bloodthirsty. The noise, panic, personal chaos, and psychotic detachment contained in these songs could make you fumble for a light or a friend or some kind of solace. The tracks on “Want” dig in that deep, making for one of the most disturbing, mentally terrifying, yet artistically stimulating records to surface so far this year. God help us if someone figures out a way to top it.

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