Crack is the sound of mounting dread, a bleak outlook on a future that may never be. Electronic decay abounds, simmering and smoldering in the wreckage. Rumbling just below the surface, a series of deathly drones carry the memory of the last vestiges of humanity while formless guitars shudder and shake in a web of confused distortion and feedback. Is this where we’re headed or where we are now? Is there any way out of this sonic morass that has come to dominate and obliterate our senses?
Shampoo Boy, the Vienna-based trio consisting of Peter Rehberg, Christina Nemec, and Christian Schachinger, don’t provide any answers on this, their second release. Instead they adopt a steely, nihilistic stance that turns a cold, disenfranchised eye on the world crumbling around them. A seemingly linear narrative, the soundtrack to an apocalypse of our own making, Crack offers little in the way of solace or hope within it’s three extended improvisations.
Forgoing percussion, an element that can often feel confining or restrictive in terms of form and structure, each of these three extended expeditions into the very heart of darkness possesses an amorphous quality that, lacking any recognizable structure, only serves to heighten the level of tension. Sounds skitter about in the darkness, fragmented and echoing within a vast underworld, distorted but heightened along with the auditory senses.
On “Riss”, the German equivalent of the album title, it’s as though a fissure has formed, slowly and methodically swallowing everything in its path. Staring down the spreading devastation, the members of Shampoo Boy embrace the void, looking beyond the imminent destruction and into the face of the unknown. Unblinking and unphased, it’s the soundtrack to the world’s end; not a bombastic cataclysm, but rather a slow, deliberate sense of finality that we are allowed to experience in real time.
With each of the tracks a synonym for the title (“Spalt”/gap, “Bruch”/fraction), Crack is the sound of the world coming apart at the seams. While opening track “Spalt” sets the tone, the side-long “Bruch I-III” delivers a series of final, crushing blows to the last remnants of hope. Amidst blistering feedback and impossibly long drones, unrecognizable electronics sputter in the darkness, filling the ever-increasing void. Rumbling to a protracted conclusion, the sound devolves into a massively distorted bass drone that simmers through to the album’s end.
In the final seconds, a series of overtones present themselves, flickers of light in an eternal darkness, a glimmer of hope in a world without. It’s the only reprieve granted during the album’s nearly forty-minute runtime, a false sense of security and hope extinguished with each return visit to Crack’s bleak world. With each spin, that fleeting sense of optimism is again crushed by the darkness and dread permeating the record.
As uninviting a world as one could imagine, Cracked offers much to be explored within its fractured darkness. An impenetrably desolate set of noise-based improvisations, Shampoo Boy proves themselves to be operating at the top of their blackened game, crafting an album as bleak as it is bold in both presentation and execution.
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