Small Reactions photo by Michael Morales
We’re pleased to bring you the premiere of Small Reactions’ new album RXN_002 (listen below), which is scheduled to be officially released on August 4th. You can purchase the album here.
RIYL: Cold War Kids, Preoccupations, Cloud Nothings
There is a balance to Small Reactions on their second album, RXN_002. Noise and melody, volatility and composure, pop music and anything but. Following their debut, Similar Phantoms, and a collection of 7”s, EPs, and mixtapes, the album is their most successful, realized version of “noise pop” to date.
Small Reactions spent the last several years paring down their music to the most essential elements. By focusing on basic instrumentation, simple structures, and few musical cues besides “loud” and “fast,” songs were easily driven to the tipping point, off the tracks and towards destruction. RXN_002 assesses the wreckage, puts the pieces back together, and starts the journey anew where the band left off, to the darker recesses of human experience. Noisy guitars, relentless drums, and hypnotic, melodic bass are all intact, but the tools for exploration have expanded. The sound is something less monolithic, but more nuanced and complex.
RXN_002 hits an early stride with the motorik beat and chiming guitars of “Sessions Street.” The jagged lines and droning, distorted Farfisa in the following track “Controllerhead” bring to mind the artier corners of 70s and 80s post-punk complete with a middle 8 which brings to mind the left-hand turns in early Fall singles. The pace slows with the deliberate propulsion of late album cut “Sliding Glass Nightmare,” a song that deftly recalls the hypnotic, repetitive side of bands like Stereolab and Luna, before picking back up with the paean to and acceptance of loss in “El Dorado” and the closing salvo “Cowboy Up.” Pop melodies are pushed far off center throughout the record, proving that space is always more interesting closer to the fringes.
Thematically, the album is darkest at the center. “Fatal Flaws” deals with exhaustion, resentment, and self-manifested apparitions derived from those moments. Set atop a bed of jangling, Feelies-esque guitars, the juxtaposition between lyrics and instrumentation captures a defining trait of Small Reactions approach to songwriting. “Allés” manages to find comfort in a nihilistic worldview. The dark heart of RXN_002, “Flagrant,” though, is based on a particularly grotesque scene from Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. In a rare moment for Small Reactions, there is no light here. No juxtaposition. And no romance.
Recorded December 20-22 of 2015, RXN_002 was tracked at studilaroche in Decatur, GA with Ben Price. In keeping with their preferred MO, the band primarily tracked the album live with the exception of the glassware, bells, handclaps, and synths. “Controllerhead” was recorded earlier by Jason Finkel at Converse Rubber Tracks, but fit the narrative of the record–an early example of where the band was heading. Jeremy Scott mixed and mastered the record at The Civil Defense in Brooklyn, NY. Clinton Callahan, Scotty Hoffman, Ross Politi, and Sean Zearfoss are the band.
Like the line cutting RXN_002’s cover in half, Small Reactions exist at a point of juxtaposition. The wide gulf between simple, catchy melody and dark, complex chaos has been explored before, but rarely have the results been this exciting. Destroying these songs will be harder.
August 24 – Atlanta, GA at The Earl
September 07 – Tampa, FL at Rock The Park @ Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
September 08 – St. Petersburg, FL at Green Bench Brewing Co.
September 10 – St. Augustine, FL at Sing Out Loud Festival