The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves
You can spin art-punk on Antonin Artaud’s “theater of cruelty” an idea in which the artist conceptualized a vein of creativity delivered in severity. The list of bands that form the genre’s historical backbone – Crass and Richard Hell and the Voidoids and Wire – are built less on pre-occupations with pop sensibility than crushing aesthetic.
The debut record from New England based Perrenial embodies that zeitgeist, almost to a T. The briskly titled The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves amounts to twelve clipped tracks that are chopped to the musical bone and show fury in full blossom. The level of sophistication on Symmetry puts the band on a different level with their contemporaries.
One of the first things you sense is that no single song epitomizes the nascent band’s sound. The opening title track kicks off with a discordant orchestra warming up before it cascades into furious hardcore riffs; on “Fauves” which leads with heavy, bruising percussion, they come across a little like Pere Ubu, vocal style maladjusted and desperate; then on “Evergreen Un Deux Trois” they do a more call/response lyric delivery and spare guitars over a mix stripped down to a battering drum through most of the track. Then the track (the longest on the album at a little over three minutes) trails off with more than a minute of silence bridging into the next track, “The Witching Witching Witching Hour” which lingers in an eerily hushed ambience.
If there are individual standouts on Symmetry, they are the songs like “Hipolyta” and “Dissolver” the fast, efficient, core punk rock – largely familiar material, but once you’ve been through this record a few times, those are clearly not the main attraction. None of their contemporaries are doing songs like “Transistor Chapel Roof” with sanguine atmosphere, accented by keys only to follow it with “Resolver” a 67-second nose bleed. Perrenial packs a lot of noise and cool experimentation into their debut, aesthetically distant at times, but consistent, interesting and worthy of repeat listens.
Ultimately, Perrenial’s artsy viciousness and seething sensibility marks their debut as one to follow; perhaps not canon for the genre, but a rare, grimy gem. A few times throughout Symmetry I felt like the album needed more fleshing out, a few stronger songs and less muscle, but this should be brought forward as one of the best albums in punk, and especially experimental punk of the year.