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The Sweet Release Of Death
The Sweet Release Of Death Richard Foster , November 22nd, 2016 23:03

The Netherlands has a long and quietly glorious tradition of tough-sounding, alternative noise acts. I could name a host of artists that have shaken my tree over the years; acts as diverse (and ringingly loud) as The Jullie Mittens, Space Siren, WOLVON, FCKN BSTRDS, Toner Low, Adept, Bonne Aparte, or the brilliant if utterly incomprehensible It Dockumer Lokaeltsje. We can also add The Sweet Release of Death to that list.

The Sweet Release of Death are from Rotterdam, worth mentioning because the city has a tradition of producing uncompromising, hedonistic bands that often reflect the city’s bombastic cultural ambitions of which KIEM, Rats on Rafts, The Lumes and Venus Tropicaux are classic examples. Yet, this pedigree hasn’t really been a useful prop for The Sweet Release of Death. Quite the opposite, in fact. The band previously played footsie with this heritage, making gauche, urbane essays in noise; essays that felt a bit too cramped, or mannered to be fully enjoyed — they had to shake off the demands of this bombastic city and grow into their own skin.

This self-titled, second LP is the sound of a band learning about — and exploiting — the potential of their live and recorded sound. A series of tours and working with some uncompromising producers have straightened out and streamlined these Rotterdam existentialists. Now, they have blossomed into a tough, proto-Gothic noise act of real potential. This new LP is proof; it’s a burning record in places and one that is really, really satisfying to listen to. Its laissez faire swagger is very “un-Dutch” — the opening track, ‘The End’, has that laid back confidence you’d associate with My Bloody Valentine, its controlled bombardment, and ever-so-slightly hysterical vocals, suggesting that this is a mere amuse-bouche compared with what is to come. There is a snappy feel overall, as mid-tempo struts like ‘Post Everything’ pass quickly and brightly. The listener also needs to keep a sharp look out to clock the underlying textures and a moody, often mercurial rhythm section. Smart, minor chord changes abound.

And for all the de-tuned nods to East Coast No Wave (maybe unwittingly invoking memories of Lee Ranaldo’s time in Eindhoven’s Plus Instruments in the early 1980s) the music seems driven by a Gothic imagination. For one, the vocals swoop, screech and swirl like a harpy over a series of taut, controlled, poppy songs like ‘Fox’, which have something of Bauhaus about them in their structure. Elsewhere, ‘Kitty Swim Club’, ‘Smutek’, and ‘India’ seem to be inspired by Guthrie or McGeoch-style guitar runs. The last track ‘Do Bears Shit In The Woods’ belies its un-Gothicke title to blossom into an Emo-esque elegy, and ‘Solaris’ could be The Woman In Black auditioning on The Voice. Still; there is a grooviness and a pop sensibility to this record that counteracts too many visions of Patchouli and lace.

The Netherlands has kicked up a lot of very good bands over the years, this past decade especially. And Sweet Release of Death seem to have shaken off a mildly indifferent start and joined the club. They are an interesting band with a lot of potential, and whilst it won’t set the world alight overnight, The Sweet Release of Death is without doubt a brisk, tough, and often gloriously accessible release. I also get the feeling it could be one of those records that, if given time, will get played over, and over again.