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K-Holes

Dismania

(Hardly Art; US: 1 May 2012; UK: 1 May 2012)

Dismania's aggressive noise-punk makes for a challenging but compelling listen.

Dismania is a complex listen and often times seems at odds with itself. There’s a certain level of the “everyone-for-themselves” aesthetic that was championed by the New York No-Wave scene in the ‘80s but there are so many things that click, that it just ends up boasting an illusion of that particular brand of ramshackle nature. That’s not to say that Dimania isn’t an incredibly chaotic and often times claustrophobic listen. There’s still a sense of pride exhibited in the K-Holes’ ferocious raggedness that suits their brand of drugged-out noise-punk incredibly well. All throughout its run-time Dismania maintains a perfectly schizophrenic pace which ends up adding to several of the songs rather than distracting from them, like the narrative of a vivid fever dream.


The brute blast of aggression that Dismania impressively sustains to its conclusion begins at the very beginning with “Child”. That particular track features a discordant saxophone weaving its way in and out of a nightmarish Cramps-esque blast of lo-fi blues-ridden punk with one of K-Holes’ vocalists not so much singing as howling like a mad prophet, in the same vein as early Nick Cave. It’s a formula that the band repeats throughout Dismania, even when switching vocalists, and it works wonderfully. Had the band opted to go for a less harsh style of vocals, it would’ve created a contrast too noticeable for Dismania to really stand as a complete piece.


“Rats” quickens Dismania‘s pace and helps it delve further into a nightmarish space that the band occupies perfectly, offering lyrics about “buckets of blood”. There’s a sense of violent unease running through several of these songs that’s really brought out on “Rats”, helping make it an early highlight. “Frozen Stiff” starts showing the band’s similarity to early Black Lips, which isn’t a surprise, considering that one of the members of K-Hole was at one point a member of the Black Lips. Things start to slow down a little with the eerily ambient “Acid” and then way down with the noir-ish “Window in the Wall”. That pairing exhibits an unexpected range from the young band and suggests they could have a lot more to offer down the road.


Then Dismania kicks the tempo up considerably with the vicious “Nightshifter” that features a rapid-fire vocal and some atmospheric screams and wails. Everything else, of course, is still all but drowned in light distortion and reverb. “Mosquito” sees the vocals becoming more restrained and the music becoming much more frenetic and stands out as one of Dismania‘s handful of highlights. There’s still a sense of immense unease and intense aggression on display as if K-Holes are reveling in (or even responsible for) some sort of impending apocalypse. It’s terrifying and thrilling in equal measure, which is something driven home by “Dirty Hax”, Dismania‘s strongest track.


Dismania ends with an intriguing one-two punch: “Numb” and “Nothing New”. On “Numb” the band’s content to amble along, almost uncertainly, towards the record’s actual conclusion. “Numb” essentially acts as the calm before a storm that never really happens. Instead, Dismania ends in a haze of even greater uncertainty on “Nothing New”. There are no moments of intensity apart from the very effective atmosphere established on the track. It’s a curious way to end a record like this and it works surprisingly well, keeping listeners on their toes and guessing at what’s going to come next. I can’t wait to find out.

Rating:

Steven is a writer, musician, and filmmaker from Wisconsin who has spent his fair share of time in the entertainment trenches. He frequently contributes reviews and interviews to Playground Misnomer, which can be accessed here: http://www.playgroundmisnomer.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @unbusyinwi.


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