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Track-By-Track

New HEALTH Album Get Color Reviewed Track-By-Track
Kev Kharas , July 27th, 2009 08:28

Unblinking vision, unmatched madness, the saddest rhapsody and pure, pure rhythm – but where do you go when your first record sounded like The End Of The World . . . ending? HEALTH return.

HEALTH are hollow. At their core is nothingness. I don't mean that as a slight: there are those who will have got beyond the initial absurdity of this band's first album — the shrieking, the flailing, the arrhythmic rhythms that stopped and started and twitched like they were being ridden with machine-gun fire — and turned away anyway, citing a complete lack of personality. And that much is true.

Health didn't have a personality. It had defining traits, but none of them were human — in fact what most defined the record was its complete lack of humanity: humanity, represented by Jake Duzsik's exhausted sigh, was desperate to find its way onto the record, but its advances were always batted away and enfeebled by fits of noise, swiped at by textures that recalled This Heat or Drum's Not Dead, but brutalised. At no point did you trust the record enough to even begin to try to attempt to relate to it on any human level. On any empathic level. As an equal exchange between souls. Because Health didn't have a soul, really - it just ached, so sorely, with the lack of one, with its imminent evaporation into the air to become something depleted and tacit. And it was never an equal exchange.

Duzsik, BJ Miller, John Famiglietti and Jupiter Keyes offered up sound as wretched commodity - Health may just as well have been a warhead or a pet rock, things that only begin to accrue personality as mirrors, things for people to project the hidden motives onto. HEALTH saw humanity's place in the world - the red, shifting earth below, the space above, the water sucked by thirsty sun - then documented what it sounded like when you scooped that humanity out. Not midway through the excavation or at the end of it, but in the final stages, when the task would most likely reach the apex of its tragic mundanity. By the time ultimate track 'Lost Time' came around everyone had died and the warheads and the pet rocks were still warheads and pet rocks. HEALTH didn't care. They were not human, they were the fate that befell humanity and thought nothing of it.

With the recognisable world removed from itself and all its symbols and cleverness destroyed, HEALTH only left two avenues open when it came to recording a follow-up. They'd have to either stand back and soundtrack the new, alien world they'd razed or immediately set about rebuilding it. Lucky for me and all other opponents of millennia-long drone tracks, they chose the latter.

In Heat

A truncated recap of everything that happened in part one, 'In Heat' sees HEALTH recreate every texture from their debut album in the space of 108 frenzied seconds. Guitars crash, still hammered into the earth like gleeful, malignant comets, drums pound still played by a giant. The track's awash with that same insidious, indefinable noise that tormented Health - high-pitched, half-whirring, half-clicking like the beating wings of some metallic swarm. There's a pair of shocking pummels towards the end so tight they will thieve your breath, presumably there to reassure the listener that everything committed to tape will be done so with the same ridiculous rigour.

Die Slow

Perhaps unsurprisingly, HEALTH follow that opening epitome with their most uncharacteristically straightforward track to date. You still wouldn't have the cheek to call it a 'song' but drums are relatively tame, the whine of guitars honed into something more neatly progressive. It even has a clearly definable structure to it… they're still barrelling along obnoxiously, but 'Die Slow', like the record as a whole, actually, appears to have absorbed some sophistication from the HEALTH//DISCO remix release. It's a fuller and more fluid effort and where the first album at times seemed like one, long track divided haphazardly into segments, everything on Get Color is self-contained, even if certain noises and effects reoccur throughout to string the thing together like a script.

Nice Girls

Most bands would probably allow the golden tide of noise that rises up at the start of this to play out for a while, but HEALTH don't allow it time to settle, cracking down swiftly and viciously. From then on, though, the track sounds destined, on course for something. The tears of guitar in the chorus even seem borderline-heroic and you can almost understand what Duzsik is saying, though eventually his voice sinks in a meltdown of drums and machinery. An early highlight, no doubt.

Death+

The band have been playing this one (as well as 'We Are Water') live for over a year now, so you might recognise the half-machine, half-human synth/voice motif that recurs (“burb - ah lee - bah - boo - hee hee hee ha”) and is as close to a 'hook' as the band have come so far. It's worth noting that the synth actually sounds closer to human than the voice; which emerges as something feral and primitive. This suggests the messy divorce of Kurzweil's singularity, animal tearing from mechanics like exorcised ghoul.

Before Tigers

The guitar sound in this one is monumental. You imagine it must excite HEALTH to unearth new textures to fling into their melee, because they tend to re-use them over and over again, and this one's a fantastic addition to the existing arsenal… it roars and falters like a failing jet engine. One of those creeping, ominous tableaux that HEALTH execute so well.

Severin

If the last track seemed to stretch one second into three and half-minutes, then this should be seen as the inevitable retort to enforced slow-mo, anything but static as it thrashes like the twin to the debut's most ridiculous cut. In kind with the rest of the record though, the track sounds more filled out than 'Courtship', less monochromatic, lit by neon reds and pinks as if that's the only light HEALTH will permit in their post-world 'world'. Duzsik does his sighing, wheezing, dying thing again as guitar treble rains upon the ear like torrential diamond. The man sounds constantly drug-drained. Sporadic outbursts of delicious drone are beaten to a pulp by Miller's percussive athleticism as machines whistle and shriek like the maimed women of Dr. Robert Vaughan's wettest dream.

Eat Flesh

Perhaps the weakest track on the record, until its ferocious final throes 'Eat Flesh' seems to exist as a primer for the two incredible tracks that follow it.

We Are Water

The first in double salvo that sees HEALTH hitting new heights (skewering the moon) 'We Are Water' overflows with ideas and new sound, as the band take a huge step out of the darkness into the dimlit clubland their devotion to rhythm always hinted at. This would sound huge on a proper club system but even on these suffering speakers the mind boggles as to how you'd go about repeating some of these noises - they seem like aural one-offs, articulate of a chaos that should be too wild and rare to capture, as miraculous a snare as the Battle at Kruger. There's some of the old LA in here - the narky, antisocial, leather-trousered one The Smell thought it had vanquished, but of course as all things HEALTH it's evolved into something refreshingly sinister; the end segment hacked off from the rest and driven backwards into a sharding blast of MBV blare.

In Violet

And then this. The twitching, thwarted corpse of HEALTH, re-risen off the back of some remote and slow, dull finger pulse magnetic in its mean and insistent ache for some response - some humanity - catches the brutal void off-guard, as if all their berserker militance has crashed for a moment, offering something other than machinery the chance to sob in the darkness. For once Duzsik sounds like he's breathing in rather than slowly exhaling. There's no real relief - the threat's still there, in thin beams of noise that stretch across the top of the track to make the eyes wince - but there's space and with that comes a thin thread of humility, articulated in the gauzy fidget of a lone synth. It's not enough to constitute a love song because love doesn't exist in HEALTH's world, the terrain they've staked out is a place of sensation rather than emotion. But it's the first sign of something, at least - the first flutter of human feeling to emerge through the fugue and muck of Get Color's empathy vacuum. The noise beam stretches out towards your ears once more and then it's all over.

Standout tracks: 'Nice Girls', 'Death+', 'We Are Water', 'In Violet'

In a nutshell for the dead attention spans (RIP): If their debut album overlooked a world death rattling this is the start again, but on HEALTH's terms - it still flails and thrashes, but Get Color seems to have more to it than just manic athleticism and absurd attack. Increasingly kaleidoscopic rather than settle for starchy monochrome, HEALTH continue to push their sound into new territory. At some points you'll swear you can glimpse humanity, before it invariably disappears into noise soup. HEALTH remain one of avant-rock's most thrilling troupes, their continuing reliance on rhythm almost pushing them away from that camp towards the rave tent. They don't sound like anyone else, but you suspect they'll have to keep working hard to avoid caricaturing themselves - 'Eat Flesh', for example, sounds very much like 'a HEALTH track'.

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