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Towers
II Neil Kulkarni , February 19th, 2014 05:40

The first thing you have to get over is that this is drum and bass. Or rather just bass and drums. Towers, from Portland, are a duo (refugees from a now defunct garage-rock band The Troglodytes) and have made, for me, the album of the year thus far. Often with duos, the inherent limitations behind what they're able to do with four arms and four legs, and the way they rub up against and occasionally exceed those limitations, provides the drama. With Towers, within about half a second of opener 'Hell', all such considerations are utterly destroyed, never to be recalled for IIs entire duration. The point is not the numbers but just how heavy Towers' hearts are about the world and its ending – that feel of despair and derangement is fathomless, endless, massively suggestive. II is an industrial-heavy, dubby, doomy, psychedelic, beautifully ill-proportioned aural apocalypse of the highest order.

'Hell' oft has you thinking of the most bone-crunching sludge but also has you wondering how proud Levene, Wobble and Atkins would be of this. There's a sense of space and dread and attention to every cinematic detail of the headspace that recalls prime Goblin, as well as other psychonauts of the bottom-heavy and brutal like Godflesh, World Dom, and early Kyuss. Crucial to the punch of the whole album is that it was recorded in analogue (at the same studios as the Shins and Decemberists no less), and this lends a warmth to its lunges and lo-end, a ravishing tactility and thrum to those moments when all coalesces and flows. It's tsunami-like at times because the deluge is so fast, even as the warnings stack up so slowly.

Two minutes into 'Hell' everything gets marshalled to an awesomely heavy stomp, guitars get phased and fucked with. It's reminiscent of that moment in P.I.L's 'Careering' where the whole track melts into a heartstopping new gear, not a change of speed but a shedding of filters, a tearing away of blinkers, an opening up of a freshly glistening new human horror. The analogue recording really starts to tell as 'Hell's mid-section drone gives way to a skinpuckering panoply of rolling beats and heavy-fugged riffs. There's a warmth to this wastefulness that lends it the space of Saqqara Dogs, the surge and rhythmic intensity of This Heat or prime Unsane or Buttholes – ugly-pretty vocals splayed queasily through what available space there is, the whole thing collapsing again into a rumble of factory drone before krautrocking itself back into a fantastic counter-intuitive DMT-stoner vibe for the fade.

Three more barrages of bewilderment to come. The lurid visual sense to Towers music smears and surges through the 'The Room At The End Of The Hall' which follows - it becomes apparent just what an amazing riddim machine Darryl Swan is, moving from Liebeziet-style liquidity to Narcizo-style octopus-heaviosity in a heartbeat. Never so macho an adherent to machine-like repetition to ever abandon the colossal amount of feel and finesse he has, really opening up the kit to reveal the drums as a whole orchestra in their own right. It's something your ears follow to the point of obsession before you snap back to prehend the whole of Towers' sky-high, seabed-low art. Jazz-like stealth, thrash-style rampage. It also becomes clear what a brilliant vocalist and bassist Rick Duncan is, conjuring bliss and the pitch-black from four strings and a coffin of effects, able to spit and snarl and bellow with real venom and bite, but also confident enough to croon, to slur like a stranded junkie, to allow his voice to be sucked into the grinder and come out heavy with tremolo and trauma. It's been a while since I heard rock even attempt anything as uniquely placeless and bereft of interest in the ground as the opening minute of 'The Chosen' – a stunning intro of isolationist rock up there with Zoviet France, Labradford that gives way to a pivoting three note riff slathered with medieval vocals, catastrophic unsettling vocals, the last chants you hear before the hooded congregation offer your body up to hell.

The closer, the 14-minute 'In The Room Of Misfortune' is the track that initially engages in perhaps the most 'conventional' death/grind/doom/sludge manoeuvres of the whole album. However, it ends up – via Duncan's pitiable, theatrical, stereo-strafed vocals – sounding akin to Sarcofago slowed to a 16rpm crawl, bass'n'kick welded together with a phat solidity, wah-wah'd forcibly down the retina of your third eye. It ends broken up, busted, dank like the most bloated mid-70s Miles or Sabbath, a black angel of death taking flight from the horizon of a blasted earth, moving from dot in the distance to blotting out the firmament, feathers fluttering with deafening resonance as a claw fills your vision, plucks you up, taking you as far out as your lungs can manage, before your body get crushed flat by the pressure and dust. I ain't tripping but this is vivid, vicious, viscous, deeply psychedelic stuff. It's too cold for anything less. Submit yourself to the mindflames immediately.

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