Not all musical experiences are meant to be enjoyable. Let me explain this. Yes, ultimately music is a form of entertainment that people tend to enjoy passing time or indulging in art, but that doesn’t always mean it should be a comfortable time. Feeling agitation and anxiety and concern is just as legitimate as something that makes you forget yourself, and often these are the records that really stick.
No one ever will accuse duo Wreck and Reference of being easy listening. Obviously, they musically don’t fit into that category, and the music that makes up their sometimes-upsetting albums won’t make for a letting loose and vibing out. Unless your vibe is sado-masochism. Their fourth album “Absolute Still Life” is their strangest, bluntest, most confrontational yet, a fact that greets you like a harsh slap right out of the gates and stays with you like a continually spreading rash over its 10 songs. I’m making this sound bad. The music is relentless and captivating, and you won’t be able to take your ears or ears off what’s going on here. Just looking at the strange cover art the band—Ignat Frege and Felix Skinner—chose for this record already gives you a taste up front. Then you dig into this music that peels back a lot of the harsher noise and screaming elements of past and goes more for a head trip right into a trauma you cannot easily slip.
“A Mirror” begins practically in the middle of a breakdown with keys blurring and creaky vocals caving in, with the admission of, “These painful memories are stacking up.” The track corrodes along with telling you just how low things have gotten. “Sturdy Dawn” has beats charging, an electric spine, and the hopeless call of, “I’m trying to remember my lines for a play I didn’t ask to be in,” conveying the frustration. Crazed vocals sit behind, and the song feels emotionally drained. “Eris Came to Me at Night” is soft and solemn at first, as warbled vocals note “the smell of burnt toast, the blood in my nostrils.” The music gets psychologically horrific from there as sounds blurt, insects swarm, and the track comes to a frustrated end. “Stubborn Lake” has beat and zaps, with Skinner’s singing autotuned for effect as tortured cries are layered behind the madness. There’s a desperation to remain alive amid chaos, as noises turn and cause a nauseating twist. “What Goes in and Comes Out” has keys dropping and deliberately delivered vocals, with Skinner wailing, “These are Armageddon dreams, they are nothing more than that.” Howls snake and signal the further unraveling, while chirps and signals drown everything out.
“What Is a Gift” has growly singing, beats punching away, and raspy misery as Skinner calls, “I’m trying to forget all my lies.” Keys simmer before boiling up for an attack, letting the fury peak and finally melt away. “In Uniform” has the music slinking with scraping speak singing as Skinner points, “You say you won’t, but you will,” hammering home his disappointment. Haunting keys take over as detached cries reach out while the sounds and world crumble. “Dumb Forest” has dream-inducing sounds, putting a heavy chill over your flesh, while Skinner practices self-flagellations over past transgressions as he begs, “Hit me again,” over and over again. There’s an oddly R&B-flavored vocal sample looped into this that brings chill where there should be none. It’s an interesting clash. “Amends” is quiet and eerie, as Skinner sings, “I always say death to those above us,” as he seeks punishment that, while it hurts also is bittersweet. Sounds jettison as the track comes to a loud, fiery finish. “Irony of Being Something” is the closer and opens with beats cutting and blistering shrieks and singing combining into one force. “Which future haunts you the most?” Skinner asks as the music ruffles the brain, and things come to a warped ending.
Clawing at your flesh and writhing in your seat is a normal reaction to Wreck and Reference, so if you’re there, that means this is computing, hard as that may be to understand. “Absolute Still Life” is a mentally punishing document to handle, so imagine what must have gone into creating it. This band never is going to go down easily, so if that’s your thing, this group and this record will be dark companions for you as you delve deeper into your own darkness.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/wreckandreference
To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://theflenser.com/