The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Work Simon Jay Catling , November 19th, 2015 21:30

Taking a cue from their producer Alex Townend, who as one half of the ATP-signed minimal wave duo Vision Fortune headed out to the farmland of mainland Europe to record their 2015 record Country Music, south London-based four-piece Housewives similarly eschewed the UK capital to revel in the skewed oppression of disconnection and subsequent contemplation of modern life. Their findings are particularly bleak on debut LP Work.

Constructed in a French farm house, Work advances on the juddering discomfort of the group's self-titled debut EP from last year, by having the courage to uncouple themselves from the feint post-punk that kept those early tracks from straying too far away from familiarity. On Work, different variations of guitar atonalism are flung together with the industrial clatter and rumble of agricultural machinery and equipment, the monotonous grind of labour a constant cold breath down the neck of these disquieting exercises in art rock minimalism.

That former This Heat drummer Charles Hayward, whose own recent work as Anonymous Bash has taken on similarly jagged, scything qualities when performed live with members of Gnod (among others), is cited as a fan makes a lot of sense. Housewives operate on a similar level of dark release, a modern type of psychedelia for a late-stage capitalism world that pushes the minds and bodies of its participants ever further into chaos. The group's de-facto frontman, Joe Rafferty barks out his lyrics just off-mic which, allayed with the rough nature of the record's production, brings to mind the singer wildly stumbling, unbalanced around the rustic French surroundings, his mind viciously unravelling. His complete breakdown comes during arguably the album's centre-point, 'Autarky', in which he commands "work harder! Hard worker!" over the whirring machine-like pivots of his band that stretch out over six anxiety-wracked minutes.

Elsewhere, the four-piece's affection for de-tuned guitars and atypical rhythms are at their most striking on 'Tele', which huffs and splutters before falling into an awkward twitch of a pattern, strings squealing out as they come into contact with violin bows, tom-heavy drum rolls offering up a more easy to pinpoint source of dark unsettlement. Earlier on, 'Life Swell' hits you like a cold sickness, twisting at the stomach through its disorientating chord progressions and tempo that swivels up and down with delirium. Make no mistake, Work as a whole is difficult to get through; there's a relish that emanates from each new layer of aural contortion, the relentless bludgeoning of blunt percussion and its grizzly kinship with the record's wiry guitar structures tightly constricting the senses towards breaking point.

There's little respite until 'Fallen Arches', the penultimate track, and only then because it at least offers at least a little space between the noise, the most fleeting of chances to recollect the mind before they're scattered again by the itching patter and brittle drone of 'Balm (Icaria Sunstroke)'. It comes as a surprise then, that the biggest take away from the record is in fact a feeling of euphoria: the more rigid restrictions that band place themselves within – not even the use of field recordings really dilute what are thick, cloying textures – creates an insanity that offers an alternate reality no more incomprehensible than our current one.