This blog has long championed and respected Disappears (even bringing them into town last June with Woven Bones), meaning that we hold some high expectations for these boys. They certainly have the pedigree to weather such preconceived notions – what, with Brian Case of 90 Day Men and The Ponys on throat and songwriting duties coupled with the recent enlisting of one Steve Shelley (from The Sonic Youths, you guys!) hittin’ skins and feelin’ fine. Without any more fanfare… yes, Guider delivers, though not necessarily in a definitive sense. If anything, Guider demonstrates a band in transition – an artist expanding their sound succinctly while respecting their self-imposed parameters. It also demonstrates a band that used to be from late aughts Chicago, but somehow bent space-time to originate from early ’70s Dusseldorf, given that more than half of Guider makes liberal use of the apache beat. Disappears has gone full kraut, to solid results.
Sans any schtick, the Disappears sound established by Lux, the 7″s, and live boots consists solely of chugga-chugga rhythm guitar caked in a metric shit-ton of tape echo, fluid low end, repetition, and the occasional celestial flourish. Sometimes fully realized, glistening melodies make cameos amidst the rigid, dystopian psychedelia. Historically, all these approaches appear within the same song, but on Guider, the facets of Disappears’ sonic simplicity are chemically separated.
The opening title track finds Disappears at their most jangly – guitars on the upswing, gentle percussion, and a nasty Bo Diddley-esque garage blues bass groove. Disappears’ three-minute crystalline pop vision then gives way to die Disappears einschmeichelnde motormusik on “Halo.” No hummable melodies, no pomp, no circumstance, just steady motorrad riding through the chrono-synclastic infundibulum at precise 4/4 time. Krautrock done with craft and care, “Halo” has been proven to provide age-defying hormones that make skin look youthful and vibrant. It rules.
Of course, as part of the aforementioned transition, you hear some growing pains on Guider. Lyrically and musically, “Not Romantic” feels only half-formed, trapped in the murky ether between Guider‘s pop facets and stratospheric explorations, especially when compared to the clarity of “Halo” and the epic triumph that follows it: “Revisiting.”
Hoo boy, “Revisiting”…
If you’ve heard anything about Guider, you’ve certainly read writers’ thoughts on this number. It takes up a little more than half the album, clocking in over 15 minutes with nothing more than motorik beats, two chords, a newfound vocal growl from Case, and total marching-into-Mordor-via-the-Autobahn gravitas. And much like old school/best school Stereolab, the song’s intense hypnotic quality could prove medically hazardous. There’s an old legend about Can that suggests the band could focus their repetitive energy so acutely, some audience members experienced severe disorientation. That’s power, and I think “Revisiting” proves Disappears can play ball with Stereolab and Can. It’s a colossal, masterful centerpiece – and one that (for better or worse) eclipses Disappears’ final, um, revisiting of the old Lux sound on “Superstition” before the band, presumably, continues their trajectory into new territories on subsequent releases.
When I interviewed Brian last year shortly before their official debut came out, he revealed they already had enough songs for another album – and Guider is the result. Considering the band has sat on these songs for more than a year, as they did with Lux, their albums are always a couple steps behind where their current songwriting lies. The transitional, adventurous-albeit-uneven nature of Guider showcases a band drafting wholly new sounds to their sonic blueprint. Most of the time the experimentation works, but when it doesn’t, Disappears undoubtedly possesses the acumen to follow their most focused and mind-expanding ideas to the furthest reaches. Guider is a rewarding listen, but the best is yet to come.
Guider is out in stores and on online retailers today via Kranky.
Disappears – Halo