Art is sometimes an unrelenting bitch that pummels you across the head, making you feel an insurmountable amount of emotional distress. Or happiness. I recently came across a piece of art, and every time I looked at it, the desperation and depression grew every time. It obviously evoked something, which is what art should do. If it doesn’t do anything then that my friends, it’s a problem.
Most will be surprised by the release of Anguish (Rare Noise Records), the self-titled release of the band with the same name, obviously. Comprised of an assortment of characters that I’m willing to risk defining as a supergroup, much like Mike Ladd’s ILLTET. But that’s as far as comparisons may go as Anguish travels a much different path with lyricist/vocalist Will Brooks & guitarist-keyboardist Mike Mare of dälek fame, tenor sax player Mats Gustafsson & drummer Andreas Werliin of Swede free-jazzists Fire!, along with the 68-year-old keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler of the German krautrock band Faust. That’s a lot to take in with names alone.
The recording was recorded earlier this summer in just the span of three days at Faust’s Scheer Studios in Germany. To simply categorize the self-titled release under one banner, one genre would be a disservice to all involved because there’s so much involved within the context of each track musically.
The group opens with the instrumental “Vibrations,” moving in repetitive motions from the bottom end, allowing electronic tones and guitar notes to filter in as horns squeal, formulating something abrasive, all the while enticing. While it may move slowly, it’s over as quickly as its begun. A rumbling chimes in at almost halfway past the three minute this is where you’re left unsure as to where the percussiveness is derived. It may leave you confused but that’s alright. Now while the music created here shouldn’t find constriction within one genre, they all do their damned best when they do. “Cyclical Physical” breaks my original findings as the track follows dälek’s directive here combining the noisy, agonizing beauty of what they normally do, breaking down sound as only this creative quintet can. Dissonance blares in the background, melodic guitar and bass lines find their way as the driving force as Brooks, also known as the emcee dälek, laces his prose with as much venom as there is truth. But the group doesn’t always have to find motivation at pummeling levels, the title track is witness to that.
The track itself moves like the quiet sound of wind blowing through rustled bees nest over a slow dragging brass play, and drums softly roll in alongside keystrokes. dälek holds his words tightly around the beat, as he’s closely guarded, giving his props to those that came before, as he addresses the reality of creating and the glorification that usually comes after one’s death. This is but a portion of his point here as his words have sometimes been quite the conundrum, here the prose he spits are heady and far from nonsensical. But it’s the combination of lyricism, delivery, and the music the tacticians create that are so compelling. On “Gut Feelings” they come for everyone, with deep beats, free-flowing horns, dälek’s vehement words, all wrapped around an ominous background sound dropping in and out. Those beats are paused at times by quieter allowing the spoken word artist to arise out of Brooks on “Healer’s Lament,” which juxtaposes art with the monetary, death with life, and so much more in an urban decay of modern America. The jazzy horns and drums are accentuated by an eerie and haunting feedback on this almost eight-minute opus. It’s followed by “Dew,” a free jazz rumbling that could stand alongside William Hooker compositions, with Gustafsson providing much of the meat in this meal full of protein. The band continues in challenging listeners on the sparse “A Mae Of Decay,” held together by lyricism and a buzzing percussion. Literally. It would be difficult not to mention “Wumme,” the epic closer, built around an explosive jam session which may seem to proportionately rise amongst the rest of the album. Fiery guitars sputter in and out, with a dissonance in the backdrop, as Gustafsson pounds away. The band obliterates everything in its path leaving no care for anyone in its way. Musically the band gives the middle finger at everyone here. I dare anyone to try to follow that, their work is cut out of them. Anguish is a band you wished every city would have, challenging both their contemporaries and listeners to do better, in just about all aspects.