A Place to Bury Strangers: Hologram Album Review
A Place to Bury Strangers has proven its longevity, if not its consistency. Since the trio’s eponymous debut pierced eardrums in 2007, Oliver Ackermann and co. continued to play loud, intense mopey music that made the difference between post-punk and shoegaze. Unlike their debut album, however, the group’s subsequent releases were often loose and underwritten, long exceeding their reception. Founder of Death by Audio, a beloved line of custom guitar pedals and a Williamsburg shuttered room, Ackermann may seem more interested in special effects than songwriting. Yet on the short, satisfying Hologram EP, the Brooklyn-based artist transcends his reductive tendencies, gracefully navigating fuzz and feedback loops as well as melodies and hooks.
And despite its modest length of 22 minutes, Hologram never feels like an afterthought. The EP has a distinct form, with the abrasiveness of the first two songs cooling into the tight melodies of the last three. “End of the Night” and “I Might Have” aren’t exactly unprecedented for A Place to Bury Strangers, although the production sounds more punchy, the songs structured under layers of multi-track reverb and percussion. The influences are the same – a low drum fill in the mix sounds like the opening seconds of “Only Shallow”, and a number of moments evoke the languid aggressiveness of the Jesus and Mary chain. But just as his observation of 1990s shoes threatens to grow old, Ackermann greets his predecessors with a wink: “Hello 1994,” he buzzes to “I Might Have,” after nostalgically describing a longing for it. “Erase the years”.
In the past, the rotating cast of a rhythm section of A Place to Bury Strangers too often relied on bass guitar eighth notes and loud, loud drums, creating an atmosphere of heavy threat. The band’s new drummer, Sandra Fedowitz, and her husband, bassist John Fedowitz, the latter a key contributor to Ackermann’s Skywave Project at the turn of the millennium, are instead looking to elevate themselves. Sandra’s laconic rhythm on “Playing the Part” lets Ackermann’s riff shine, while the interplay between John’s swimming bassline and a closed snare allows the bursting sweetness of “I Need You” closer. His band’s timing fine-tuned, Ackermann’s hooks can breathe: the EP deliberately goes from chaos to catharsis, with performances tighter than we’ve heard from A Place to Bury Strangers in a long time.
HologramS meticulous sound makes it clear how much finesse is needed to make loud music distinctive. When A Place to Bury Strangers first appeared, bloggers and critics dubbed them “New York’s loudest band,” a limited form of praise for their varied talents. Hear their debut today and you might not be shocked at its volume, though the jagged beauty of the record’s composition and production lives on. Well built and rhythmic, Hologram could have an equally long shelf life. A guitar pedal, after all, is like an airplane – anyone can board it, but only those with a particular set of skills and technical knowledge can fly it. Because they treat every part of the writing and recording process with care, A Place to Bury Strangers lifts us off the ground and plunges us into a cracked sky.
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