[11 June 2003]

By Ryan Potts


Best Band to Break Your Lease With

Their name may be lifted from a character in the kitsch cartoon series Johnny Quest, and this musical collective may have origins rooted in the musical black hole that is Indiana, but Racebannon are kicking and screaming, scaring the silence around them and forcing you to listen.

The evidence swathes the dozens of releases that litter their seven year existence, but last year Racebannon’s insanity-induced noise finally registered a blip on the avant-hardcore radar screen. With two full-length releases on Secretly Canadian Records in 2002 alone, Racebannon found themselves in familiar territory: isolation. Much like their Midwestern homeland, Racebannon are also the estranged black sheep at Secretly Canadian—a label that holds this six-piece noisecore unit amidst benign indie-rock and rainy day pop.

Yet, through the adversity and desolation, vandalized senses and frayed nerve endings, Racebannon utilized their starved musical landscape and barren sonic setting to radically evolve and drastically dement from the mere scream-riddled hardcore act they began as seven years ago.

Now simultaneously reaching deeper into the avant-garde and noise-ridden realms, Racebannon often trample and tear into six-minute-plus songs that stomp into tempo-halting bridges and abstractist transitions which directly sever any ties with the usual hoard of A.D.D.-addled noise freaks satiating the scene. Instead, Racebannon reincarnate Merzbow’s mind into the SST discography of Sonic Youth and amplify Picasso’s cubist collages into sound’s parameters.

But after a year of toils (having their van stolen) and triumphs (playing a gig at this year’s South by Southwest festival, touring with the Melvins), Racebannon’s brutal sonic byproducts remain unprecedented.

Last year’s full-lengths—In the Grips of the Light and the conceptual Satan’s Kickin’ Yr Dick In—plunged into an emotional black hole most people didn’t want to know exists while simultaneously transcending traditional music structures, laying waste to melodicism, bruising earlobes and making even the most unorthodox noise sound sonically legible.

Even on those two oblique albums’ most straightforward moments, their muddled minds and musical mental illnesses bleed into everything: guitars sound like alien ray guns set from stun to kill; rhythms crash and grind like clashing tectonic plates; vocals sound like screams that should be ricocheting off the walls of a padded cell.

Yet, it’s something that heavy music hasn’t heard in, well, forever. Racebannon are pure rock ‘n’ roll Armageddon: they shatter stereotypes and limbs, break bones as well as trends and staple and stitch it back together under the dark, claustrophobic abyss their sound subscribes. Needless to say, next time you see the jovial Johnny Quest and Co. unraveling another mystery, you won’t hear Racebannon as the accompaniment. But who cares? The dystopian landscapes and surreal derangement brought to life inside your skull by their music will be so nightmarishly real and vividly frightening you won’t even have a reason to regret Stanley Kurbick’s cinematic departure or crave another William Burroughs novel.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/030611-now-racebannon/