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The Sweet Release Of Death
The Blissful Joy of Living Richard Foster , October 22nd, 2019 09:17

On their third album, Rotterdam noise trio The Sweet Release of Death prove their singular determination to plough their own furrow, finds Richard Foster

Nora Joyce is reputed to have said of her husband’s epic work, Ulysses, “why don’t you write books people can read?” The quote came to mind whilst listening to the latest album from the uncompromising Rotterdam noise trio The Sweet Release of Death. I don’t bring the quote up to belittle the band or nail the record as being unduly difficult or gnomic. Though it is true that The Blissful Joy of Living does need some patience when uncovering its charms. The point is, like Joyce and his oeuvre, it’s clear that TSROD have struck their own path and they mean to stick to it, come what may.

This, the band’s third offering, is a tough record and another significant step away from the keen-to-please, slightly brittle noiseniks they started out as. By stint of some pinch-hitting tours and a lengthy process of self-discovery, TSROD have blossomed into a tough, no-nonsense No Wave act that have found their own rhythm. You may not hear it at first, but underneath the scales and thorns and shards of molten noise, there is a groovy band with a considerable ability to capture the listener and keep them locked into their dramatic world.

Weirdly enough, it’s their ordinariness that sets the band apart, the quality that gives them the guts to make such a tough, short, statement. Not careerists, nor in love with the Dutch music business, the trio are modest, unassuming people who get on with their day jobs and treat tours as a form of holiday. But they are nevertheless one of the most driven outfits I know. And like the city they are from, all three set great value in refining their craft, looking to push themselves through hard work and street cunning. Street cunning provides the rub with The Blissful Joy of Living. It feels as if it is designed to confound and to tease. Sticking an accessible single at the beginning and then upturning the apple cart courtesy of a whirlwind procession of howling guitars, emotional shrieks and battering drumming isn’t the sort of career move that oils the wheels in the biz. But it certainly feels they have delivered their statement the way it was designed.

As stated, The Blissful Joy of Living starts at a tremendous lick, with the single ‘Sway’, possibly their best track to date and certainly the hook that lies in wait for the unwary. After ‘Sway’ we are propelled into the molten core of the record. ‘Ponytail’ and ‘Sick Girl’ are brutal, fleeting spatterings of noise and beats, ultra simple songs that allow singer and bassist Alicia Breton-Ferrer to peel off a set of grievances, chanting them aloud, almost as if she’s scouring them in a piece of wood.

Even if everything spans just six tracks and about twenty minutes in total, we listeners are offered no respite. ‘Hey’ is built round a likeable riff that manages to jet off into outer space in its all-too-brief life. The first four cuts are a blast, though. By contrast the longest track, ‘Orange Blanket’, clocking in at a nose-bleeding three minutes twenty seconds, is naught but a King Lear-like declamation at the elements. Though this angry gobbet of noise works as a palette cleanser for the very funny ending, ‘The Weather is Great Today’. This last offering sounds like a big pink spotted slacker spaceship that just can’t be arsed taking off. Why it also reminds me of very, very early Mercury Rev is anyone’s guess.

The port of Rotterdam is well known for importing raw materials and, through sometimes infinite processes and refinements, creating something useful and occasionally beautiful from them. And this band, true alchemists of sound, have taken their city’s modus operandi and created something unique to themselves. Whether The Blissful Joy of Living receives praise or bafflement is anyone’s guess. But fair play to TSROD for having the guts to make it.