Listening to an album by A Place To Bury Strangers provides the listener the sensation of being a Victorian explorer, travelling to uncharted places and experiencing wonders never witnessed by human eyes. Or in this case, ears, as “the loudest band in New York” specialises in creating sounds you could never imagine. Like Charles Darwin eying up the critters scurrying around the Galapagos, a vast panoply of possibilities presents itself.
A Place To Bury Strangers create music that falls between shoegaze, post punk, noise rock and a nuclear war. They make ear-shredding, electrifying noise. Front man Oliver Ackermann invents pedals for his company Death By Audio, this is a guy who knows noise. Are APTBS for you? Check this out…
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The impression of Ackermann is of a man working to the late hours, messing with valves and circuitry and diodes, like a hipster Doctor Emmett Brown. Seeing as we get to enjoy the results does this make us Marty McFly? Great Scott! Hey… where’s my hover board?
So, while thoroughly confused as to whether I have been cast as Charles Darwin or everybody’s favourite 1980s teenage time traveller, my destination remains the same: Worship. This is APTBS’s third studio album, following a self titled debut in 2007 and Exploding Head in 2009.
‘Alone’ has a bass powered piledriver smashing concrete blocks pieces while the guitar screams in the background. Giving forefront to the rhythm section leads to a harsh, driving song. A comparatively low-key opener makes for an intriguing way to get an APTBS album rolling.
‘You Are The One’ sees an oscillating guitar glamour falls over the song, then sliding screeches under Ackermann’s vocals. The bass growls as sparks fly past. The chorus is underlined with twitchy, tinny drums. The song rides out with the guitar screaming bursts of energy, like a spaceship entering warp speed.
‘Mind Control’ is more in the vein of Exploding Head; a colossal cluster-fuck of a song. Horrific bass merges with a guitar forcing a moose through a grinder. This is the hypnotic, grotesque cavalcade of abusive noise that makes this band at the forefront of the psychedelic scene. No other band can make you feel so queasy. The bass continues to be a supersonic flight of terror.
The title track ‘Worship’ slows the pace to a head nodding tempo and is a little easier going. The guitar offers a more recognisable riff, offering glinting shards like spark emitting from the nose cone of a shuttle re-entering Earth’s orbit. Clanging drums sees the song into a final assault.
‘Fear’ has an opening bent out of shape like warped plastic before energetic drums usher in panoramic, ghostly guitar. This is where the echo’s of gothy post punk show their influence. Past 2 and a half minutes the song shows its true hand with Sonic Youth explosions.
‘Dissolved’ offers a slow, sinuous start that reminds me of a mid 80s New Order album track spliced with say, Ride or Slowdive. Quiet and seductive by this band’s standards, it’s fascinating to hear new shades and hues. The guitar work here is more akin to oil being dripped onto water. Feeling relaxed? Don’t. After 3 minutes silence falls then the bass rumbles in like a tank division. The guitar is so thin it sounds like an anorexic Marquee Moon, then it’s all change again, as a gigantic hornet flies through, switching between these two textures this song has a serious personality crisis.
‘Why I Can’t Cry Anymore’ is the sound of a fireworks factory going up two streets over. The guitar is pure Ackermann, sounding more explosive than an episode of Thunderbirds. “I want to die” sings Ackermann. Yup, it’s the goth thing again.
‘Revenge’ drums smash your senses up while the guitar gobbles electricity and spews it from your speakers. Ackermann hollers and gasps for oxygen under this shit storm of chaos.
‘And I’m Up’ is almost sweetly melodic with lilting pop vocals. Almost. The bass dances around careering drums while the guitar flings strobe lighting at your subconscious.
‘Slide’ shows off a humorous side with a spaghetti western riff dryer than an Arizona summers day. Dream-like and hazy this is another song that shows off something new.
‘Leaving Tomorrow’ brings us back to familiar territory. A bombing run of noise with V8 rhythm forces the song through your brain at a speed so punishing you can barely see it on the horizon. Mountainous cliffs of white noise erupt from the Earth, thundering towards the sky.
A Place To Bury Strangers make dizzying, disorienting music. Painful, tortured, noise but the beauty is that melody is never sacrificed in the name of experimentation. This is not a head scratching puzzle box for pseudo intellectuals. This is music for the body, to stir your emotions, reach into the pit of your stomach, fire adrenaline into your legs and make you surrender to an unknowable power. Remember the first time you threw yourself about to ‘Transmission’ by Joy Division? That’s the goal these boys aim for. The best response to one of their songs is “Gaaaak…”
Worship, while diamond hard, is not as brutal as the albums that came before it. It’s shinier, slickly produced and adds a few new strings to their bow. It’s less abusive and aggressive while still being devoted to the guttural reaction that noise can create.
In modern-day psych A Place To Bury Strangers are a shimmering edifice. Worship? We definitely should.