AMN Reviews: Anguish – Anguish (2018; RareNoiseRecords)

As music labels go, RareNoiseRecords deserves a medal of bravery. Their modus operandi seems to include heavy doses of combining groups of people that no one else ever thought of combining. The result has been some very interesting releases over the years, favorites of which include partnering of noise, free-improv, industrial, rock, and jazz musicians. Here, they take another step forward with Anguish – putting together members of experimental hip-hop group Dalek, free-jazz aficionados Fire! Orchestra, and Krautrock pioneers Faust. Not only does the quintet meld well, in this self-titled release they have created a dark and cynical commentary on today’s socio-economic dystopias.

Personnel-wise, we have vocalist and electronic musician Will Brooks, guitarist / synthesist Mike Mare, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, drummer Andreas Werliin, and keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler. An interesting lineup no doubt, but not as disjointed as it may seem. Brooks and Mare were influenced by Irmler’s Faust, as well as the industrial music that derived therefrom.  And Gustafsson once again proves that he can adapt his style to play with anyone.

Running between two and eight minutes in length, the nine tracks include atmospheric improvisations, but mostly are song-length diatribes with repetitive (though often complex) beat patterns, sax wailing, and plenty of tension. Gustafsson, in particular, is plaintive and emotional, while Irmler’s contributions are haunting. The first, fifth, and seventh tracks are short instrumental interludes, and sound at least partially improvised.  These are the most “outside” parts of the album.

The remaining songs angrily explore the darker side of urban and societal decay. Brooks speaks, raps, and sings the lyrics with earnestness. He makes observations using coarse language – guns, alcohol, drugs, pregnancy, hopelessness, and a lost generation – all controversial topics are game (see below for a sample). The effectiveness of his message is punctuated by Irmler’s distorted contributions, Gustafsson’s warbling combined with Mare’s keening and screaming guitar-work, as well as the group’s Krautrock-infected driving rhythms.

This is intelligent protest music that is timely and falls within a category of its own. Highly recommended.

…nostrils plugged with the funk of dreamless men
tripping over the length of their lives
scripted with a pitchfork at the edge of flame
the place where they came together is the place where they fell apart
they look at each other in the void of cracked eggs
chanting the pledge of allegiance to a pitbull with a billy club
on an ocean of crack vials and uzi shells
planned parenthood discussed in a think tank
Hitler became an American citizen
and hope floats in an empty pack of Kools
sailing down a gutter river of 5 million 40oz bottles of malt liquor
filtered through the bladder of a ghost…