I still remember the first time I heard Sick With Bloom, Yellow Eyes’ 2015 atmospheric masterpiece. With lo-fi grit, a palpable love for nature that isn’t at all forced or cheesy, and constant, unbridled passion, it’s a crowning achievement of the stateside black metal scene. 2017’s Immersion Trench Reverie was a bit of a new direction for the band that I admittedly didn’t enjoy as much, the New York quartet experimenting with psychedelic elements and a new vocal direction, but the emotion and reverence is still there in spades. But even though it just came out, I’m inclined to say that Rare Field Ceiling might exceed the amazing heights of both of these great albums. The record shows the band soaring with a newfound freedom: every evocative, climbing tremolo riff, every hypnotic double bass pulse, every desperate shriek flows forth with spellbinding fervor, an undammed river of nocturnal beauty. I can barely even express how perfect the production is. The album is mixed so well but also shrouded in a slightly muffling, blanketing warmth that imbues the music with a consuming, meditative atmosphere, like it’s blasting from the yawning mouth of a forgotten cave. From the cathartic guitar ascensions of “No Dust” to the angular rhythmic interplay of the title track to the sublime, reserved closer “Maritime Flare,” Rare Field Ceiling is nothing short of magnificent, an enduring triumph.
The term “noisecore” is a case-in-point for the futility of genre specificity. Sometimes it refers to the harsh, spastic, often comedic blast miniatures of bands like The Gerogerigegege or Nikudorei, other times I’ve seen it applied to more structured noisegrind releases, and people even try to tack it on to records with a raucous, abrasive brand of hardcore punk… not exactly a well-defined moniker. But what the hell else am I supposed to call something like Insane, a razor-sharp release that (allegedly) blazes through 22 tracks in less than six minutes, all distorted explosions of electronic blast beats, fractured shrieks, and waves of screeching, chunky noise. Like some of my favorite albums in this musical grey area—Sissy Spacek, Unyoga, The Hermeneutics of Fear of God, etc.—Insane uses the warped, blurred grind segments as elements in a twisted collage, constructing a nightmarish sound environment that draws its formidable presence from the unnerving blends of speeds, palettes, and genres. Despite the release having 22 tracks, it’s essentially a single Instruments Disorder-esque maelstrom full of noise in every form. If I had to argue, this is what “noisecore” should really be.
Taiwan Housing Project’s (hereafter THP) incendiary follow-up to 2017’s Veblen Death Mask is more intense, abrasive, and overwhelming than its predecessor in virtually every way. Sub-Language Trustees moves beyond the angular post-punk slithers but retains the raucous garage rock energy, losing a lot of its sanity in the process (a change for which I couldn’t be more grateful). It’s more in the vein of “Luminous Oblong Blur” from Veblen Death Mask, further exploring the stumbling, deconstructed rhythmic structures and grating, Pop Group-esque sax skronk. Kilynn Lunsford’s vocals are as mesmerizing and disconcerting as ever, and the renewed power granted to them by THP’s new stylistic formula is no better exhibited than on opening track “Charitable Fiend,” a nearly five-minute inferno of jagged noise rock carnage. How the band manages to loosen the ties of their music to this extent yet still bring it back together for infectious, propulsive moments like the coda of “Universal Size” is beyond me, but Sub-Language Trustees is so amazing because it makes very little sense. It’s dark, menacing, and completely disjointed at some points, head-bobbingly catchy at others, and the whole thing ends up as one of the most entertaining cases of musical whiplash you’ll hear this year.