FRESH WAX: The N.E.C., An Isle Ate Her

The N.E.C. - Pineapple

The N.E.C.
[Pretty Ambitious Records, 2011]


Purchase This Album:
Pretty Ambitious

Way back in January I posted a review for Mood Rings’ excellent debut EP, Sweater Weather Forever, one that — among other things — established the EP’s second track, “Indian Hills,” as the benchmark for local music singles in 2011. To be clear, I was speaking purely in pop terms; there are, in fact, many songs that I’ve enjoyed more this year, but none that have struck me quite the same in terms of being both immediately accessible and artistically engaging. That is, until now. Roughly ten months and hundreds of songs later, I can finally say that I’ve found a superior effort in the dizzying heights of the N.E.C.’s cosmic odyssey, “Creatures Flaming,” a stunning tune that smartly mixes propulsive psych-rock drifts and angular post-punk aggression without relinquishing any of the addictive catchiness that the band uses to reel the listener in.

And there in a nutshell is much of what makes Pineapple, the group’s latest record and their first for local upstart Pretty Ambitious Records, so successful. Much of the N.E.C.’s strength is derived from the fact that they’re not just unwieldy noisemakers experimenting with elaborate instrumental textures but a full-blooded, shape-shifting rock band as interested as carving memorable melodies as they are in sending the listener blasting off into space. And so it is that Pineapple becomes a two-pronged excursion with the one path — populated by tracks like “Hate City Serenade” and “Loralene” — leading you into the far outer reaches where shimmering shoegaze guitars and droning analog synths collide to create intergalactic plumes of nebulous sound. Down the other we find the trio tethering themselves to an earthbound aesthetic with murky, cavernous songs such as “All Night Drug Kids” and “100 Feelings” exploring the limits of more familiar (and decidedly more terrestrial) punk and garage rock structures.

The N.E.C. may opt for the psychedelic rush of spacey art rock, but this is by no means a band trying to mask their deficiencies in processed noise and reverb. At its core, Pineapple is still guitar-driven; it’s still loud, strident, occasionally fist-pumping stuff. What’s more is that it’s all delivered so seamlessly with a clarity of vision that is startling. 2011 may be in its home stretch, but if this year has proved anything it’s that there is no shortage of local acts crafting dynamic, forward-thinking music. It’s time to add the N.E.C. to that list. I can’t recommend this one enough.

More Info:

An Isle Ate Her - Phrenia
An Isle Ate Her
[Self-released, 2011]


Download This Album:
Bandcamp l Amazon MP3 l iTunes

I’ve probably said it a million times myself, but I’m going to go ahead and say that one of the most disingenuous statements that people make about artists goes something like: “I don’t like their music, but I respect what I do.” What the fuck is that? How exactly do you respect something that purportedly sounds bad to you? I mean, I understand why we say it — everybody wants to be on the side of talent — but on its face it’s really nothing but a cop out. And everyone knows it.

I bring this up now because I’d be willing to bet that bands like An Isle Ate Her get that sort of weak-minded rationale all the time. The reality is most people can’t stomach the frenzied chaos of their extreme grindcore, but the band’s technical proficiency is so ridiculously on another level that no one wants to deny the virtues of their blistering assault. It’s far more comfortable to push it to the side and claim respect even as many of those same listeners refuse to engage with the music on any meaningful level. And that’s partially the beauty of An Isle Ate Her — there’s no sitting on the sidelines. The music is so frantic and brutal, and it unfurls at such whirlwind velocity, that you’re forced to react — you either embrace or reject it.

Undoubtedly, most people will choose the latter, and that’s a shame. Spend some time with Phrenia’s dozen songs and you’ll discover that behind every maniacal guitar run, each staggering drum blast and vicious vocal laceration, there’s a tunefulness that’s rare in music this violent and frantic. For all their menacing intensity, the band understands the necessity for solid dynamic structures that keep the listeners guessing. So while songs such as “Das Ekel,” “Landsraad,” and “Appetency” strike with all the speed and ferocity of a charging bull, tracks like “Slueslings” and “Dun Dorr” take a more unpredictable approach, incorporating elements of jazz, prog and hardcore into their otherwise sinister salvos. Either way, the results are exceptional.

More Info: