Review: The Serfs – Sounds of Serfdom (Detriti & Wasted Tapes, Jan 10)

For me, “local band” has long been an implicitly derogatory, or at least separating phrase. The “local” qualifier always seems to denote a musician or act that has little appeal other than being based closed by, something that’s unfortunately true for many local bands. But if you’re fortunate enough to live in a city or town with an active scene, dig deep enough and you’re almost guaranteed to find something (or multiple things) that break the mold. This is part of the reason I’m so appreciative of Cincinnati post-punk bands like Crime of Passing and Mardou, whose releases I’ve reviewed here previously (Winter ’19 and Bitter Energy, respectively); they remind me of how amazing it is to have exciting musical output being generated so close to home. Now, musicians who have played with and written for both projects have formed a trio with The Serfs, whose reclusive, nocturnal brand of minimal wave first made an appearance on 2019’s Songs of Serfdom. All six tracks released on that EP are also featured on the similarly titled and covered Sounds of Serfdom, the band’s debut full-length released on LP by German imprint Detriti and on tape by Cincinnati label Wasted Tapes. I was lucky enough to see The Serfs play a live set a while back, and every ounce of their mysterious presence and outsider scruff is conveyed by the beautifully lo-fi production of Sounds. Energizing chants defiantly emerge from dark, dank caves of moody synth and muted drum hits on “Vanishing Act”; piddling electronics morph into cheerful, infectious melodies on “Perverted Disco”; and “Imitation” joins the ranks of other incredible “I—–tion” songs—along with Mardou’s “Information” and “Immersion”—for a lovely conclusion. Pretty much every song on this album is fantastic though, those are just the three that stood out the most on my most recent listen-through. I send eternal love to The Serfs for not just being a “local band,” but also making me feel like I’m truly a part of something by being in close proximity to them (not that I actually am, but it still feels like it).

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