Review: barn sour – horses fucked over the head with bricks (Careful Catalog, Dec 23)

While my end of year review hiatus is always a much-needed break from an undammed influx of new music, there are usually a few remarkable or fascinating albums in December that demand immediate attention. One of many works in a large quantity of final month releases that exposes the stupidity of publishing comprehensive end of year lists in November, barn sour’s debut 7″ horses fucked over the head with bricks concludes newcomer NYC imprint Careful Catalog’s superb 2019 with a flourish. The EP was released just a week before we rang in the new year in tandem with Mattias Gustafsson’s equally amazing Frusen Musik, and over a modest nine minutes it proceeds to fuck every conception you have about music over the head with bricks. The names of the two musicians listed on the release are most likely pseudonyms; James Druck probably refers to one of the key figures in a series of cases of insurance fraud commonly known as the “Horse Murders,” and while I’m less sure about the meaning of “C.Lara” the first thing I think of is the nursing mnemonic that provides an effective approach to interacting with patients. The music itself doesn’t answer many questions, instead taking the form of a bewildering amalgam of emotions that cultivates a mysterious power through evocations both visceral and cerebral. Maniacal laughter rings throughout the entirety of side A, balancing any interpretation on an unstable tight rope between unfettered joy and complete hysteria while our understanding is further assaulted by shifting layers of dissonant drones, earthen clatter, and some brief beauty near the jarring, unceremonious end. On side B, harrowing, half-nonsensical, Boredoms-esque babbling is tempered by the cavernous reverberations of a somber piano melody, and barn sour burrows even further into a rabbit den of oddness and impenetrability that, coupled with the EP’s short length, makes it extremely addicting.