Reviewed by Joseph Cummins, December 1st, 2015
Severe is formed in the space where explosive streams of percussion and sublime clouds of noise converge. I don’t think I’ve ever been so struck by the level of focus that emanates from the fourth album by Melbourne trio My Disco. The music is extreme, in its lyrical refinement, rhythmic hypnotism, sonic attention to detail, examination of structure. On previous albums My Disco have repeatedly proven their commitment to the exploration of repetition, space, and dynamic contrast, but Severe is their most concentrated statement so far.
Featuring Liam Andrews on bass and vocals, Benjamin Andrews on guitar and Rohan Rebeiro on drums, the trio wring every ounce of energy from each idea, and most of the songs on Severe are built from a single lyrical/rhythmic/textural idea. Each of the eight tracks on Severe repeat an incantatory formula: while squalls of noisy guitar and hugely reverberant drum hits break and fall like waves – these forces seem to be breaking both against and with each other – Liam Andrews presents super minimalist, mantra-like lyrics. On album opener Recede he sings ‘recede into silence’. These simple lyrical structures, often subtly treated with effects to create distance or menace, rein in the tumultuous energies of the guitar and drums. The effect achieved is in each case slightly different. Same thing, many ways.
Compared to their three previous releases, tempos have slowed on this album. Something of the genius of My Disco must be in the way they manage to make their songs sound both tense (in mood) and, at the same time, relaxed (in delivery). The force of this music seems to be generated in the friction between drums and guitar. These two elements, like geo and atmosphere, are suspended and separated, complementing and contrasting. If the bedrock of My Disco is the rhythmic machine of Rohan Rebeiro’s drumming, guitarist Benjamin Andrews has the rare ability to peel back layers of sonic tissue, revealing muscularity, essential harmony and melody.
The shift between songs, from eight minute to three minutes, is as carefully considered as every other aspect of this release. Having a briefer song follow a longer exploration emphasises the wholeness of the musical language My Disco have created. Successive Pleasure evokes the darkness of Nick Cave (minus the pomposity and machismo), and I can’t begin to explain how much I loved the way My Disco roll back the creeping momentum of the song midway through, with the slow-release heat of the guitar re-entering, leading bass and drums back into the fray.
Likewise, the shattering reverb of the guitar on Our Decade is given so much space to breathe. It feels like the pounding of floor toms emerges from the assemblage of resonances mined from deep within guitar strings. We as listeners as given enough time to hear the melody buried within the toms, snare and bass drum. Having witnessed a live performance (at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, in 2013) I can image how affecting these sounds would be in a live setting.
Severe is one of the most well crafted and unified albums I have had the pleasure of listening to.