"That's the most intense fear and feeling - when you go to a show and you're actually scared," says Oliver Ackermann, guitarist and frontman of Brooklyn trio A Place To Bury Strangers.
"Or you can palpably feel the danger in the music," adds bassist Dion Lunadon, "Like it's going to fall apart at any moment and the players doing it are so in the moment they don't give a shit about anything else. They're just going for it. It's a gutter kinda vibe; everything about it is icky and evil and dangerous."
The same could be said the band's fourth album, Transfixiation. Rather than fixate on the minute details like they may have done in the past, the group, rounded out by drummer Robi Gonzalez, trust their instincts and try to keep things as pure as possible. Music is much more exhilarating when it's unpredictable even on repeat plays, and this is very much an unpredictable record. Gonzalez makes his recording debut with the band here, and it's obvious that he's helped pushed the band's recordings closer to the level of their infamous live shows.
"The one thing we have in common is this fire when we're playing," adds Gonzalez. "I don't know; it's real intense."
A Place To Bury Strangers interweave threads of krautrock, dream-pop, and 80s goth without ever losing the edge that is quintessentially Strangers. Unhinged dissonance is artfully framed within a fiercely dynamic and assured melodic sensibility. Here "And I'm Up," a highlight from the band's 2012 intense Worship, is paired with unreleased "Don't Stop."
Guitars as jet engines; guitars as haunted electronics; guitars as filling-melting white heat: A Place To Bury Strangers' new album Worship is explosive, visceral, and dark. APTBS' DIY-braintrust of Death By Audio wizard Oliver Ackerman and bassist Dion Lunadon continue the evolution of songwriting that began with Onwards to the Wall, the band's 2011 EP. Now on Worship, they interweave threads of krautrock, dream-pop, and 80s goth without ever losing the edge that is quintessentially Strangers. Unhinged dissonance is artfully framed within a fiercely dynamic and assured melodic sensibility. Standout "You Are The One" is a coldwave white squall, with Ackerman coming through like an austere and menacing Damo Suzuki. Later on "Dissolved," the band methodically builds an atmospheric battle charge only to take a hard left mid-song into pure, shimmering Cure territory. There are ambitious, trend-bucking choices at every turn.
"This album was written, recorded, mixed and mastered by A Place To Bury Strangers. It is our vision of what our music should sound like in 2012, not someone else's interpretation," says Lunadon. "Every sound on the album is made by us and our tools; tools created by us, used on no other recordings, and purposefully built for this project. This is real. Some of it is the band being in complete control — bending, shaping and building the songs and the sounds. Other parts are the band relinquishing control and letting the songs and sounds take over and produce themselves. We are not trying to reinvent ourselves, but simply push ourselves further in all aspects of our music."
"We made this, we recorded this, we did everything," adds Ackerman. "Yes, we chose to do this and no, we didn't have to but we think it is pretty cool. No producer made us. We didn't go to school for any of this and we don't have time for tutorials. We invented this and now we are sharing it with you."
Onwards to the Wall packs every bit of the searing sonic maelstrom listeners have come to expect (nay, demand!) from Brooklyn's A Place To Bury Strangers. Yet, the adroit songcraft that's always been there is brought more the fore, pop hooks are repurposed and more instantly recognizable. Now joined by bassist Dion Lunadon, formerly of The D4, Ackerman has found a crucial companion in pulling timeless melodies from their jet engine textures. Standout "So Far Away" takes all the pure pop perfection of The Box Tops' "The Letter" and shoots it through with a barely-harnessed dark energy and snarling propulsion. The title track carries a similar balance of classic, 60s-pop hooks and doomed-out vibes, employing a boy-girl vocal tradeoff that's at once both sexy and menacing. A handful of contemporary bands are currently exploring the new limits of loud. And here, APTBS proves that they have not only been leading that charge for some time now, but that they are also evolving and maturing on those front lines.Onwards to the Wall is a fresh, complete artistic statement from APTBS. It’s a new chapter, a prelude for what awaits us on the horizon. It is a taste of greatness to come.