, January 17th, 2011 05:36
Last April, without fuss or fanfare, the Kranky label released Lux, the debut album from Chicago quartet Disappears; an excellent record that at once seemed timeless whilst still very much capturing the zeitgeist. Led by former 90 Day Men and Ponys main man Brian Case, these guys offered up a captivating blend of Krautrock, shoegaze and hardcore punk that sounded at various points like Suicide, Neu! and the Jesus & Mary Chain, and should – in a just world – have made a much larger splash than it ended up doing. But despite roundly positive reviews (including one from yours truly) and endless replay value, the album went pretty much unnoticed by the major tastemakers and bafflingly failed to make any of the big end-of-year lists.
Undeterred, the band are back a mere nine months later with Guider, another half-hour blast of howling guitar noise and pummelling drums. If the critics failed to pick up on Lux's promise, it certainly caught the attention of Neu!'s Michael Rother, who invited the band to support his Hallogallo project on the Midwestern leg of their US tour, and whilst the Germans' influence was already in evidence on their debut, a summer spent directly observing the master at work has pushed Disappears even further into Krautrock territory. Although more blown-out than its predecessor, Guider displays a certain streamlining of the band's sound; whereas Lux offered variations (albeit slight ones) in rhythm and tempo – touching on surf and psychobilly, amongst other styles – its follow-up is driven from start to finish by a propulsive throbbing pulse.
As on their debut, Disappears rip through these songs like a controlled explosion, but here they split the album into two halves. Side one comprises five short, sharp bursts of pounding, muscular rock 'n' roll; trebly guitars clanging under pounding drums while Case barks into the abyss. The second side is taken up by 'Revisiting', which takes the pace down a notch but builds over the course of sixteen blissful minutes into a droning psychedelic monster. Brimming with barely suppressed violence, Guider at times recalls the post-punk rush of bands like Big Black and Mission Of Burma; on other occasions there are echoes of the Fall's oddball humour, whilst the fondness for abrasive textural noise makes explicit the connection with spiritual godfathers Sonic Youth. With so many influences in the mix, the end result could easily have been an incohesive mess, and it's a testament to both the playing and production that Guider's execution is watch-spring tight from start to finish.
Ironically, the man largely responsible for Guider's overall sound – drummer and producer Graeme Gibson – is no longer with the band, having departed amicably for pastures new after finishing the album. What effect this may have on Disappears' in the long term remains unclear, but for the foreseeable future another valuable ally will be lending a hand; Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley (also, not entirely coincidentally, sticksman for Hallogallo) is currently standing in as the band's live drummer, and if they carry on impressing their influences at such an impressive rate, they might even get Alan Vega and the Reid brothers on board for LP3. Whatever the future holds, Guider is another hugely satisfying sonic transmission from a genuinely exciting group; fingers crossed this one gets the attention it deserves.