Reviewed by: Andres Rodriguez
Brooklyn’s A Place To Bury Strangers have been amassing searing guitar noise with the standard rock band setup for over a decade now. Their breakthrough 2009 album, Exploding Head, is named after a frighteningly loud phenomenon that occurs just after one falls asleep. And while A Place To Bury Strangers is far from hypnagogic, the scorchers they compile on Transfixiation, their fourth full-length, reach blinding-white flashes of noise guided by post-punk’s driving rhythms.
While previous albums by the trio have focused more on generating aural assaults with an underlying beat, this one sees the band emphasizing the beat: hoarse bass tones and calculated drumming. At the final seconds of “Straight”, the album’s lead single, the sound of a machine powering down is heard– the most tangible of several moments which evoke images of industrial equipment.
The one-two sequence of “Love Sick” and “What We Don’t See” offer their tributes to The Scene That Celebrates Itself. Whirring vacuum cleaner guitars on “Love Sick” are managed by wide, flat snare smacks recalling those heard on My Bloody Valentine’s You Made Me Realize EP. “What We Don’t See” is a pulsating dream pop number that glows in the presence of this gravelly record. With a bass riff that resembles the underwater tone of Disco Inferno beneath a queasy layer of shoegazing guitar, this highlight leads to a deafening strobe-lit ending.
A slump immediately after, the questionably threatening cut “Deeper” drags on the longest on the album. Over subterranean detonations, Oliver Ackermann warns, “If you fuck with me, you’re gonna burn,” in his best attempt at an ominous voiceover. At other points, Ackermann’s nervous sing-talk comes off as a second-rate Alan Vega of the world’s first punk band, Suicide.
Considering the band’s shattering sonic appeal, A Place To Bury Strangers imaginably deliver a pummeling live performance, where lyrics and vocals are nowhere near the sheer volume powered onstage. Still, one wonders what the result would be if Ackermann ditched the vocals and channeled his extensive guitar pedal knowledge into an unabashed industrial-noise project.