For all the dark tones pulsing through Gauntlet Hair's new album Stills, there is also a guileless affection for the goth/industrialists and post-punks who blazed a shadowy path through the 80s and 90s. Recorded during Portland, Oregon's grey winter days in producer Jacob Portrait's (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) appropriately named studio "The Cave," Stills is a modern salute to Trent Reznor and his cohort's arena-ready post-apocalyptica.
The album follows the once-Denver-based band's 2011 self-titled debut for Dead Oceans and singles spread across labels like Forest Family and Mexican Summer. After moving back to their hometown of Chicago last year, drummer Craig Nice and singer/guitarist Andy R. looked to their teenage selves for inspiration. "I started listening again to the stuff I would have in my discman in the back of my mom's car," says Nice. "White Zombie, Marilyn Manson — the production on those records is so amazing. Nothing sounds like that anymore."
Over the last year and a half, Gauntlet Hair has seen its noise-pop anthems released on 7"s by tastemaker labels Forest Family ("I Was Thinking..." b/w "Our Scenery") and Mexican Summer ("Out, Don't..." b/w "Heave") respectively. And with the self-titled debut, the duo of Andy R (guitar, vox) and Craig Nice (drums, triggers) fulfill the booming promise of those now collectible singles.
Written and recorded in Spring 2011 at Andy's grandmother's Chicago-area house while she was away on vacation, Gauntlet Hair is a subtle refinement of the sounds we've come to associate with the band — the trunk-rattling bass; the ecstatic, tinny post-punk guitar; the din of ecstasy. But what was once simply jarring in its audacity is now also bursting with new colors. While the band continues to mine the pulse-and-clap cues of modern club rap, the intricacies of Andy's Durutti Column-inspired, circular guitar lines come a bit more to the fore on Gauntlet Hair. They are at once oblique and; pounding and glassy; melodic and exploratory. Standout "Top Bunk," with its tide-like suction and throb, is a cooled-out, coastal slowgrind. The songs multiple sections overlap and interlace through bass throb, elliptical guitars and affably shouted and falsetto-sung mantras. It's a shining, disorienting example of the careful, Byzantine sculpture behind each of these party jams. It's music made with the sole purpose of losing yourself — both mind and body — inside of it. They take the listener into the red, evoking that unmistakable feeling of being squarely in front of the speaker as it is screaming blissfully loud melodies.