Harmony is the fourth album by New Zealand's Die! Die! Die! who, as their name would suggest, are often referred to as punk rockers or noise artists, though with their last two releases, it's safe to say they've outgrown these nomers and situated themselves in a category that is much less simple to define.
"Oblivious, Oblivion" starts the album with a whirlwind of guitars. There is great depth and layering of fuzzy and distinct elements. The frenetic rhythm is balanced by the comparatively patient lead bassline/guitar. This song is a great example of the transistor-y feel and complex push/pull, patient/impatient nature of the album overall, which is at times paced, at times frenzied.
Guitars are generally more prominent on this album, while vocals are distant or megaphone-like, as if being delivered over a crackly speaker. The rubbery/wobbly guitar sounds are not steady or straightforward, but often come in waves, sounding distant, then near.
"Harmony" is similar. The guitar conveys the chase referred to in the lyrics. The song has an emotional build that breaks it up into what could easily be two tracks.
Songs on this album don't necessarily follow normal structure. The well pulled off juxtaposition throughout the album is one element that stands out. The chorus of "Harmony" and the quality of the recording have something explicitly post-punk about it. It reminds me of Joy Division and Echo and Bunnymen recordings.
More so, there are moments of early And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, North of America and math rock in general, particularly in terms of the singing style, for example on "Trinity" and "Twitching Sunshine," which has a bit of a Mewithoutyou quality.
There is also a dreamy, kinda shoe-gazey feel to the album. The last track in particular gives a sense of producer Chris Towned (known for his work with Portishead), a slow song with a compelling battlefield atmosphere, a moaning guitar, battle march of drums. The songs ends with an epic, electric wave of sonic sound. There is a mention of getting back, which to me speaks to the older, more abrasive Die! Die! Die! sound that reappears on a couple of the tracks on this album.
The sense of restless youth and implied politics is palpable in "No One Owns a View", the highlight of which is the drumroll that sounds like a splatter of gunshots. This track and "Erase Waves" are raw, aggressive tracks, but the band manages to bring the punk up a level with resistance to conventions of 4/4 time and typical chord choices for guitar riffs.
This release has everything I appreciate. A special and both calculated and raw melding of harmony and intelligent heaviness, play with time signatures, unconventional song structures and enjoyable, distinct vocals. The album is diverse and original and exhibits technical skill in terms of writing, playing and production. This release is my favourite of the year thus far, perhaps in part due to the abrasive moments vs. the less heavy approach on the band's previous album, Form, which was still one of my favourite albums of 2010.
I couldn't be happier with this release and hope it brings enough success to the band to bring them over to Canada for some shows. There is quality heaviness to be had here, but enhanced by interesting song writing and technical abilities that add interest vs. the same old – no small feat.
Watch a live performance of Harmony here!
For more on the band, head on over here!