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Orchestra Of Constant Distress
Concerns Noel Gardner , August 3rd, 2021 08:34

Sweden's Orchestra Of Constant Distress return with their fourth album of pitch black noise rock

A marginal musical pleasure is when a lyric-free act are really good at titling their tracks, when they could have called them anything – some zany private joke, bland jumbles of colour or weather, numbers from one to whatever the closing song is. Orchestra Of Constant Distress, an instrumental quartet from Sweden, have had a great line in such things on their studio albums to date, Concerns being the fourth. The process seems inscrutable, because the music they play doesn’t lend itself to themes or generate clear emotions. Not that it’s mundane or pallid, more that it just wipes your mind through repetition, persistence, and force that’s as overtly rock’n’roll as it is anti that.

Comprising veterans of Scando ugliness from Brainbombs, Union Carbide Productions, and Skull Defekts, to name three of dozens, Orchestra Of Constant Distress sport big slobbery riffs and bone-dry humour, the type that might not involve smiling. Distress Test, their 2018 LP, featured six songs titled like a psychological questionnaire, from ‘Not At All’ to ‘Very Much’. Cognitive Dissonance, from the following year, run the gamut from ‘Discomfort’ to ‘Guilt’. What of the squalid little collection of businesslike adjectives that title the eight segments of Concerns? Apart from ‘Unreleased’, spoiling the effect in the middle of the album, they all feel like words a fading red marker pen might write on a whiteboard in the course of a struggling sales team’s afternoon thought-shower. Funny bastards.

I feel comfortable calling what OOCD play noiserock, even (or especially) in the knowledge that it would appal many people who’d consider themselves fans of music also called noiserock. The structures of their arrangements are strict in principle, if imperfect in execution, and they can be both worshipful of riffs and bypass them near-entirely. There are improvised parts, such as on ‘Presence’, whose burbling, distorted improvisations are like some blasphemous surrealist satire of funk. The phased-in alien communication sounds – I think these come from Henrik Rylander, who is credited with “noise” – over a singular, ur-brained clod-hop riff from Joachim Nordwall all help to enliven ‘Dependence’, too.

Concerns bears comparison to some of their other bands, if that’s what brings you here, although with no lyrics about serial killers (or anything else) à la the Brainbombs, you’ll need to dig their bleak Neanderthal clump on its own merits. OOCD can sit in a groove to an intense degree, too, like Skull Defekts in that respect but with overt virtuosity violently suppressed. ‘Exposure’ offers a tip of the cap towards something like psychedelia, although it feels like the very opposite of a bliss-heightener; ‘Consistence’ douses note-bending torture-rack blues in waist-deep sludge not wholly removed from Harvey Milk, but still more fucked up. The LP’s penultimate track, ‘Difference’, might be its highlight: Henrik Andersson’s drums mixed as the lead instrument while stringed counterparts contribute tension, then release… no, wait, just more tension, for six and a bit draining minutes.

Like the late 70s no wave big hitters Orchestra Of Constant Distress partway recall, and their immediate offspring Swans, this band are pitch-perfect pitch-darkness for people who’ve become nauseated with rock convention by internalising so much of it.