Life is hard, man. Seriously, that sounds like I’m being flippant, but it is. You see the news all last week? How can that make you feel one hundred percent great about the future of humanity? It sure doesn’t instill hope in my body and bones, and that’s just dealing with things going on around us. Add personal issues into the mix, and it all can be a gigantic burden to assume.
Wreck and Reference, the California-based duo who always have dabbled in all sorts of darkness, apparently have been under a lot of pressure lately, if their excellent new record “Indifferent Rivers Romance End” is any indication. These 10 cuts, chock full of the band’s trademark electronic-based music, sinks itself into, as the band describes it, “ballads interrogating the endurance of purpose, love, and change against the backdrop of disillusionment draining into nihilism.” I hate to be lazy and copy text from bios, but I honestly could not think of a better way to sum up this record. It’s heart- and soul-crushing, a piece that will challenge and hurt you, maybe even in ways that make you feel more vulnerable. The record also forces the listener, as well as the creators, to face change not only for survival’s sake but to have some sort of control over one’s situation. It’s a deep thinker, but taking on this journey might make you feel stronger on the other end.
It’s amazing to think it’s only been five years since Wreck and Reference formed. Its two members Ignat Frege and Felix Skinner first started imposing their macabre will on folks with their eye-opening EP “Black Cassette,” a recording that, while not metal necessarily, took on the same kind of violence and darkness as the heaviest of bands. They followed that with 2012’s “No Youth” that only amplified and further stretched out their visions, and they came back yet again in 2014 with “Want,” a record that indicated their foray into the void had only just begun. “Indifferent Rivers Romance End,” an interesting title to say out loud, expands their universe even further. The songs are richer sonically, the vocals are terrifying but also vulnerable, and their output seems to be coming more defined.
“Powders” tears you apart from the get go, with Skinner’s howls acting out two sides of a volatile break-up conversation gripping you hard. The singing is rap-like in parts, as each voice positions “what about?” questions to the other as the music pushes along. “What about that time we said we’d die hand in hand, and now it’s time? And you laughed and said it’s time to go?” The responding wails of “that’s fine!” don’t indicate acceptance, but psychological rage. “Fight But Not Metaphor” is murky and soupy, with wailed vocals, foggy ambiance, and weird talking that chills, bleeding out with a long sequence of blips. “Ascend” has more crazed shouts, with keys zapping in and out, the song halting and then crashing down as if over a cliff. Keys whir, and maniacal shouts then bleed out and into the shores of “The Clearing.” There, the singing is more understated but still impactful, while the song later passes over into a strange, detached section where synth simmers, and noises scrape away. “Liver” has quivering singing and soft keys, feeling damaged and bruised, and a gust of cold whips in and brings with it forceful screams and disorienting, panic-inducing echoes of sound.
“Modern Asylum” is darkly poppy on the surface, something that seems sort of danceable in a perverse way. Organs set in, and the vocals are more talky, while the song later cools under a bath of keys. Over top, the vocals keep their hold, forcing you to keep your head in the game. “Manifestos” buzzes from the gates, with the vocals again sounding more conversational than anything. But as the song goes on, the tension builds. The track then tears apart, with unhinged cries that border on tortured, and key plinks that add a surreal nature to it all. “Bullwhips” has warped yelps and a damaged melody, pushing out the darkness in spades, especially with the poke of, “Now that you don’t need me, can’t I rest?” The sentiment hits home hard, and it remains with you until the final moments bleed out. “Languish” also delivers massive screams, almost in rant form, while the keys and drums align and heat up the pace. “I sunk the blade into my shadow!” rocks you back and forth, with keys drizzling and the punishment harrowing. Closer “Unwant” has murky post-punk waves, shadowy singing, and misty synth. The music feels like a wilting storm, with noise stretching and sprawling, and the track fading into the distance, finally giving you a modicum of peace.
Wreck and Reference’s music won’t really comfort you or take you to a safe place, but it’s really not designed for those means. “Indifferent Rivers Romance End” is complex and perplexing, an emotional sojourn that pushes you to your emotional and intellectual limits. Are you able to withstand the fires and tyranny of life and crumbling relationships? Can you change your way in order to get stronger and avoid being consumed? This duo forces you to face that, so if you’re not ready for the pressure, you might not be able to endure “Indifferent Rivers Romance End.” Don’t come back until you are.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/wreckandreference
To buy the album, go here: http://nowflensing.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://theflenser.com/