Saturday, 19 January 2013

Burnt Books - S/T

There are a few blurbs about Burnt Books around, but nothing I found that really prepared me for what I heard when I gave this South Carolina band's self-titled release a whirl. In general, I guess you could say they play jagged, erratic, melodic crust. But that description is inadequate and should be sliced up at random with words others have used like "experimental" and "eclectic". As far as comparisons go, they hover vaguely in the territory of Witch Hunt, but only if they were conjured in some kind of seance in which a couple of Louisville bands like Lords or Coliseum were holding hands around the table with True Radical Miracle, the Blood Brothers and Today is the Day.

What? I realise that doesn't help make much sense of what this is about. The songs flail through all kinds roughly hewn savagery. Dark, mid-paced riffs that serve to support charred, throaty growls fall into off-kilter spasms ("Abandoned", "Golden Gates, Golden Streets"). In other places, the guitars are given room to build tension before angular, stabbing rhythms knock everything in a different direction ("In A Shallow Grave", "Unforgiven"). Throughout, the drums toe an incredible line between accentuating the melodies and holding all the unlikely bits and pieces together.

And just to twist it all a little more, two songs on the album, "Materialist Conspiracy Theorist" and "Liar" feature singer Zoe Lollis' smoky voice lilting starkly over a haunting banjo accompaniment in a way that brings Coco Rosie to mind. What's great about those two tracks is the way they are sequenced to break up the chaos that precedes them and to allow the songs that follow to kick harder, making the whole mess even more interesting.

It's great to find an unexpected surprise like the one Burnt Books have provided with this idiosyncratic, loosely controlled attack. Downloads are available now from At A Loss, with the physical release due on 29 January.


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