Virginia’s spookiest, and possibly most handsome, post-punk band True Body have taken the hideously deformed industrial rage rockers Digital Hell under their wing for a new, split record. The bands don’t share much aesthetically, but in terms of their outlook on life and their hopes for humanity, their perspectives form a single, undivided gaze into the shadows cast by a setting sun. If there is some talisman of a better future that can be grasped and accommodated, it won’t be found here.
True Body begins their side of the split with “No Day,” a track characterized by lachrymose melodies, cut-and-dash guitar chords, and breaching flashes chiming instrumentation, that shroud the proceedings forebodingly, like the branches of a weeping willow obstructing the sight of a murder from the opposing river bank. This opening track is also exemplary of the band’s tendency to combine post-punk inspired, garage-revival-era chord progressions a la Interpol, with dreary, Joy Division-style melodies, specifically when it comes to vocalist Isabel Moreno-Riaño’s Ian Curtis-esque diction.
The remainder of True Body’s side of the split is occupied by “Petal,” where the group indulges in some plushy, spirit-rousing guitar playing backed by a damp, amicable beat that betrays a hint of optimism, sounding like The Cure waking up from the reverie of a winter’s slumber. It proves only to be a phase, though, after which the band dons their leather jacket for a troubled walk beneath the thirsty, draining void, of a cloudless, starless night lit only by the fluorescent glow of office buildings that house machines whose masters view human freedom as an unnecessary condition, and inefficient consideration, of the forward march of technological progress and capital accumulation. It acts as a digital handshake between the two sides of the record, tethering True Body’s classic, goth preoccupations with Digital Hell’s cybernetic annihilation.
In contrast to True Body, Digital Hell align themselves with the Throbbing Grisel school of post punk, manufacturing for this release the musical equivalent of hostile architecture. Their side of the split begins with the antagonistic, vandal-hop of “Fuck Henrico Cops,” where a loose, vicious coda of rhymns slap over a junk-yard beat and tire melting, grease fire feedback. Digital Hell’s tribute to the late, cultural critic Mark Fisher comes next, a track straightforwardly titled “RIP Mark Fisher.”
While Mark may no longer be with us, the facets of our nightmarish reality he described with pinpoint accuracy in his books Capitalist Realism and Ghosts of My Life are becoming harder and harder to deny as the wheel of capital continues to break our bones as well as our will to resist its the press of its devastatingly cyclical advance. Digital Hell illuminates Fisher’s ideas with tortured ejaculations from PSI-era soundcards and a mutilated, house beat that sound like it was extracted forcefully from Jesse Saunders’s body cavity without anesthetic.
The bands finally part ways with “Sword Of Doom,” a fast-paced and dissident jam with charmingly home-demo-quality production and a casually nihilistic vibe that will trigger nostalgia for Odd Future care-free era, circa 2012.
With all of the deviant moods and bracing sounds you’ll encounter on this split, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would wear out its welcome rather quickly. I have a feeling that once you give this thing a go-round once, you’ll be tapping play again and again after it’s finished. It’s a harrowingly honest blast of post punk and cynicism to make your day in hell world less awful by inviting you to embrace its weary catharsis. That is, assuming you haven’t grown to love the conditions of your particular state of alienation and deprivation, in which case this might not be for you.