[sic] Magazine

A Place To Bury Strangers – Transfixiation

Over three good-to-great records A Place To Bury Strangers have become contemporary noise-rock’s fuzzy constant. The Brooklyn trio’s fourth LP, Transfixiation, is ear-catching then because even by the band’s own standards it’s an abrasive listen. It’s under-produced, raw and burns with one-take breathlessness when it’d have been all too easy to labour over a mixing desk instead. If that, as per the press release, resulted in “cross-contaminated microphones and mud-caked mistakes” then “so be it.”

Consequently, through a tumble of breakneck biker-rock hooks and distortion, tracks like “I’m So Clean” really capture the intensity of an APTBS live show. The result is genuine excitement – the same as when you first laid ears on the epic “Falling Sun”. But now Oliver Ackermann and co. have moved on. Where once they dabbled in crushing slowcore now, in a sludgy track like “Deeper”, they embrace primal power-drone. It’s a deeply sinister sound that burrows through the skin and then on through the nine circles of hell.

Nihilistic and capricious, and powering up and down via sparking electrical conduits, the album’s HEALTH-like first single “Straight” lays down a robotic herky-jerk, while the super-cool late-night strut “Now It’s Over” streaks past on a current on precise motorik. The ridiculously speaker-blown closer, “I Will Die”, fades in for a full minute before throwing coruscating acid in the face of no-wave punk rock. It’s an impressive feat of pure noise with laughable anti-production in which there nevertheless still beats the heart of melody. Transfixiation’s running order is punctuated with more obvious dead-eyed melodies too, Closing Eyes guest vocalist Emilie Lium Vordal adding a barely audible contribution to the straightforward chorus of “We’ve Come So Far”, for example – the track latterly disappearing into brutal static.

Present and correct, the usual influences also boil over in places. The monotone “Supermaster” is unadulterated Joy Division whereas “Love High” tackles heavy Kevin Shields-brand shoegazing and the mirage-like “What We Don’t See” cloaks irresistible Jesus & Mary Chain melodies in tremolo daggers. Crucially, though, APTBS remain their own band and Transfixiation is a commendable pushing of the envelope as it opens up the playing field so thoroughly. APTBS have only ever been held back by their imagination and their equipment (which in any case Ackermann continues to customise in order to achieve new levels of “sonic annihilation”). With both now breaking down barriers Transfixiation is like staring down the barrel of a new dawn.

Best track: “I’m So Clean”

~Transfixiation is released 16th February 2015 on Dead Oceans.~