Deathconsciousness – Have a Nice Life ★★★★

2008DeathconsciousnessHave a Nice Life★★★★77RockShoegazePost Punk

Deathconsciousness is an atmospheric, muddy, desperate feeling record that draws from the dark, post-punk sounds of Joy Division, the heavy, slowcore plodding of Low, the drawn-out post-rock creativity of Slint and the haunting noise-rock production of early My Bloody Valentine.

The beauty of what Have a Nice Life does here is the band uses low-fi layers of heavy distortion, droning vocals and a blended mix of buzzing that makes it difficult to hone in on the melody a lot of the time, but then offers glimpses of warmth that resolve the tension and become the focus. Just when you think there’s too much going on, a clean acoustic guitar line, or a set of strings will cut through the mix, and flip the feelings of dread or peril to peace and calm. 

Those calming elements are introduced right away on the album’s atmospheric opening track, “A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut.” On the almost eight minute instrumental work, a soft guitar arpeggiates start to finish, accompanied by swelling space synths and hypnotic, echoing chimes. It’s a lot of different noises, but is never too loud or overwhelming, showing the band almost always knows the limits of what they’re trying to accomplish. 

“Bloodhail” follows the opener, and is a slow, dark, overbearing rock track with sharp, industrial snare hits and distant Midwest Emo vocals. Harmonies of lonely vocals at the song’s climax mix with these distorted but almost childlike synths that form a very cool, calming tone to the song’s tension. 

“The Big Groom” uses more traditional shoegaze fuzz guitar layers; slow, pounding drums that come in half way; and distorted vocals. Despite the bleak, isolated sounds, it somehow doesn’t really sound sad, and the tender strings that come in later have a sobering effect that adds a lot of life and brightness. 

“Hunter” gradually builds and speeds over 9 minutes, until the second half of the song introduces quicker drums, violins and echoing vocals. The first driving, higher energy moment of the album leads well into “Telephony,” a muted but more traditional rock song. 

“Muted” is a word that I’d use to describe a lot of this album, from individual sounds like the vocals that are almost hidden in the mix, or the moments on the album that sound like they should be loud or heavier musically, but are actually played at a soft volume. 

Tracks on the album fall into two camps — slow, plodding, atmosphere-building sections like the opening handful of songs mentioned earlier, or more traditional, quick-tempoed, punk tracks that are a bit more common on the back half of the record. 

“Waiting for Black Metal Records…” is a would-be standard, upbeat, heavy punk rocker, if it weren’t for the choked vocals and low-fi, almost violent drum mix. “Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000” starts with a lonely folk guitar and builds by upbeat, alternative dance percussion and mixes it with dark, gothing guitars that sound like their bouncing off the walls of a church sanctuary, before transitioning again into an industrial-styled march. While nobody would confuse it or “Deep, Deep” as a dance track, there are elements — like the dancefloor synths in the “Deep, Deep” chorus — that do get you moving a bit, even if they clash with some of the unsettling guitar strumming. 

While this is a record that you can find things to write about and can admire, with an hour and a half runtime, mostly incomprehensible vocals, and production that intentionally uses the mix to make the listener feel uncomfortable, it’s not the most accessible listen. Deathconsciousness is probably more easily approached as an ambient, industrial electronic record — sitting through it to feel out the vibe and to discover the different layers and depths of the music — than a standard rock album. Beneath its raw, cold, low-fi surface, the band is able to create a shockingly gorgeous mix of sounds. 

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