Tue July 29, 2014
With this review, my intention is to get you to take a few steps through the looking glass into a Hellraiser-like universe where pain is beauty, ugliness is music and noise is pleasure. Looming ominously in a filthy back-alley somewhere in this universe is the band Public Housing.
Made up of Chris Adams, Jon Lorenz and John Rich, Public Housing has risen from the ashcan of Wasteland Jazz Unit and have coalesced into a swamp-wave/no-wave monstrosity. They have been getting a fair amount of notice in the art-rock community around town and were recently invited to share the Mayday stage with Lydia Lunch's Retrovirus.
Their new album, the band's first full-length, was mastered by Lexington, KY experimental artist Robert Beatty [Hair Police, Three-Legged Race] and released by Newport's Torn Light Records. There are four tracks to the album, each ranging from 7 to 10 minutes. Accompanying the vinyl pressing is a CD with a bonus tracks entitled "Let the Blood Flow" and a 21-minute recording from the band's first public performance at MOTR in August of 2011.
Public Housing pushes abstract noise-rock sound forms way beyond anything close to normal comprehension and into something completely non-objective until it is pure sonic energy, ungrounded by the physical world.
"Modern Breathing" begins the album in a troglodyte stomp through a quagmire of discomforting sound. Accompanying a cacophonous clanging and pounding is a shrill ear-splitting swirl of modulated electrical tones. The effect is not unlike that of a dentist's drill.
Similarly, "Caskets" is pure naught-rock that leaves you no better off than you were when you started it. It is the sonic equivalent of burning tires. The music is not so much performed and is it smelted and summoned from some highly-toxic, unstable and radioactive element found only in the deepest rows of the periodic table.
Closing out the album is "Stay Awake," which may be the most 'normal' of the compositions in that the sound of the guitar is most recognizable as a guitar - but there the amount of normalcy ends abruptly. Even this is a purely visceral sludge-tromp.
If idle hands are the devil's workshop then the sound of unhealthy boredom would sound an awful lot like "Black Water Sh**hole." To call the track 'gloomy' just doesn't cut it. It is downright dismal and designed to suck every molecule of energy from the air around you, leaving you unmotivated, morose and hopeless. I like to think of it as the absolute antithesis to "Eye of the Tiger" which, of course, makes it my favorite track of the week.
However, we're on the other side of the mirror where light is dark and awareness of our own mortality makes us know just how alive we really are. Public Housing is the Virgil in our own musical version of The Inferno.
I can say with pretty solid certainty that this album is not for everyone - and it is not an album you catch by accident. Public Housing is a band, and an album, that you must seek out with purpose and great intent. It is very well-recorded and produced - or else it wouldn't capture and transmit the heavy emotion it is intended to.
In that regard, if you are a listener who enjoys noise-core, swamp-core, dead-core, no-core... whatever dark and heavy adjective-core you want to call it, go visit Torn Light Records and get a copy of Public Housing's new LP. It may just become your new most-hated favorite.