Album Review: Disappears’ Era

Photo Credit: Zoran Orlic

Disappears

Era

Kranky Records

Release Date: August 27, 2013

 

Track Listing

1.     Girl

2.     Power

3.     Ultra

4.     Era

5.     Weird House

6.     Elite Typical

7.     New House

 

Personnel

Brian Case

Jonathan Van Herik

Damon Carruesco

Noah Leger

 

 

Over the winter months of late 2012 and early 2013, Chicago, IL-based band Disappears were holed up in Electrical Audio Studio writing and recording the material that wound up becoming both their impressive Kone EP, which was released earlier this year, and their soon-to-be released fourth full-length effort Era. Although they had to face continuing on without one of their members, Steve Shelley, who had left the band before the sessions for Kone EPand Era, both efforts have firmly cemented the band’s reputation for a sound that’s uncompromisingly complex and yet intensely visceral.

    While both albums are presumably informed by the same influences and experiences, I can’t think of many albums that seem, sound and feel paradoxically speaking similar and entirely different – simultaneously.  Whereas Kone is atmospheric and sounds as though the band is barely holding on a brewing, tempestuous fury, Era feels like the interior monologue of the Underground Man in Notes from the Underground or of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment – vacillating rapidly between anxious worry, anxious, desperate obsession, self-loathing, envy and unadulterated rage directed both at oneself and at the outside world. In other words in total contract to the atmospheric Kone, Disappears latest effort is a deeply claustrophobic glimpse into the darkest, most unsettled parts of the human psyche and the human soul. Sonically, the material manages to create this by being both angular and incredibly dense. Noah Leger’s drumming this time employs the use of short, explosive (and at times seemingly discordant) bursts meant to keep both time, emphasize certain lyrical phrases – it’s deceptively simple and yet very complex because Leger has to know where Case and his other band members are going at all times. Guitars are occasionally played through wah wah pedal and other pedals but are played with angular and muscular attack – sometimes they’re kind of sludgy as on album opener “Girl” or on lead single “Power” but other times they chime and create a moody atmosphere. Then it’s dropped into a several layers of feedback. And yet, it’s direct in a way that Kone isn’t, and feels like a punch in the chest. The songs are quickly propelled forward by Carruseco’s bass, which on songs like “Ultra” and “Elite Typical” employ a tight, seductive dub-like groove. Vocalist, Brian Case doesn’t employ the use of reverb as much for his vocals – it’s used on “Girl and “Ultra” – but instead he shouts, growls and chants lyrics that sound much like the incomplete, broken and often contradictory fragments of human thought, while focusing on seemingly dysfunctional, hopelessly fucked up relationships or on a relationships that the narrator has fucked up royally with his insecurities.

   Era is a momentous, towering effort that captures the recesses of the human psyche and soul – and those can be dark, ugly places that are startlingly familiar to each and every one of us. Much like Echo and the Bunnymen’s Heaven Up Here, Era is an album in the truest sense of the word – it’s intended to be heard as an organic whole.  If you skip tracks, you not only miss the point, you miss the deep interiority of the album, the inner conversations between songs, as well as the visceral connection. The obsessions of each song’s narrator can easily be yours and its urgent shout into the void, can be yours as well.