Monday, August 3, 2009
Social Junk - Born Into It (Digitalis CD)
Primarily the duo of Heather Young and Noah Anthony—though others have been dragged in along the way—Social Junk uses pounding beats and minimal synth to concoct some of the most pummeling pop this side of the sun. With drenched vocals and spare but wisely utilized parts the duo draw on tactics as far reaching as industrial, post-punk and Krautrock in their rugged and broken songcraft. This, their most recent sonic tastament, reaches even further into their warped world.
Interestingly, the group is known for producing vastly different results, swerving between proto-industrial clunk to spacey synth pop over the course of albums and even songs. "Champos '08," for example, features electronic crud mixed in with rotator blades and squeal that reads more like some basement Michigan noise project, while the percussive organicism of "Dirty Cloud" largely explores a much more overtly pretty side of psychedelia. Concussion Summer, their most recent full length on the Not Not Fun label, grinds out mostly instrumental clatter that is in constant flux. This one seems to meld the brazenly fried feel of the latter while persuasively melding it with a kind of numb song form whose fuel is in its monotanous, dead-to-the-world attitude.
This is more or less clear right from the opener, "It Just Isn't the Same," whose constant thud is at once primitive and futuristic, the battle cry for an interstellar war fought with spears and rocks. While the parts are all simple—the three note synth melody unendingly stuttering forward, the bleating scrapes—they are mixed so masterfully, brought forth, drawn back, reworked, that the sound is in constant motion, providing a spaced drift for the half-dead vocals to drift across.
"Those Final Seconds," which begins with a fax machine running across the rattles of snakes and delayed vocal punctuations, creates a sort of endless loop that feels overwhelmingly trapped, stuck in place until, somehow, it manages to wriggle itself into slightly new positions, slowly freeing itself of its confines while free rock drum clatter mashes it to a pulp from beneath. This is some blown out stuff and truly fried material, a sax bellowing outward signaling the approaching peak of a seven-minute buildup. Having wrestled itself free, "Grief" seems to a signal a kind of anti-climax, a new and placid world where synths drape over one another as they reach toward a mangled synth pop dreamworld as abstract as it is tangible. Jon Rickman and Bobby Caution join the duo on this (Rickman also plays on the title track), giving it a more full sound while still retaining the distorted peace within the work. It serves as a fine example of the different sounds the group can draw upon while still managing to sound like itself.
The following title track, the longest work on the album, moves between so many modes that it's tough to pin down. It glitches about, building and dying under its own weight like a Robert Ashley piece gone awry, or better yet as covered by Dead C. It is a true monster that feeds right into the brief "Behind a Wall" before the smoldering simmer of "Someone Upstairs" drifts through the coals. When all is said and done it is difficult to not be a convert, and even tougher not to believe in the group's increasing potential. Every release seems to push the bar further, and this one is another impressive statement along their path, as twisted as it is sincere.