Repetition, as a musical device, can either lend itself to the subliminal and the sublime, or the extremely irritating. It’s the foundation for most dance music, a unique aspect that set krautrock apart from much of the other progressive rock happening in the ’60s and ’70s, but also a technique that requires a delicate hand and a perfect sense of timing. When dealt by able musicians, a repeating loop or melody can become hypnotic, pulling the listener into a state of suspended bliss. But plenty of brutes have used repetition for bizarre, grating and abrasive ends, sometimes to great success (This Heat’s “Health and Efficiency“), others to baffling mediocrity (Ministry’s Filth Pig).
Australia’s My Disco certainly falls under the bizarre and abrasive camp, content to scratch and pound out a groove until it’s no longer comfortable. Their third album, Little Joy, is an exercise in uneasy listening, throbbing and scraping as if to test the endurance of the listener. A track like the nearly nine-minute “Young” finds the trio settling into a one-note chug for minutes on end, seemingly immobile in their amelodic stance. And first track “Closer,” in its build up to the verse, rides a single guitar note before disappearing into merely rhythm.
My Disco are more versatile and clever than they initially let on, though it takes a couple tracks before they loosen up, and by that point the listener may be a bit short on patience. Enduring eleven minutes of little more than one note can take its toll, but rewards lurk beyond. The relatively simple “Turn” is a spacious but danceable take on Wire/This Heat-style post-punk, while “Sunray” is a simply beautiful ballad shoved through the band’s meaty, primitive filters. Likewise, the quasi title track “Lil’ Joy” is one of the band’s more delicate constructions, rewarding patience in a completely different manner by slowly unfolding into a beautiful melody, one of the album’s best.
My Disco don’t offer an easy or convenient listen. And at times, they seem to offer provocation more than anything else. But on Little Joy, My Disco prove to be a much more complex and thoughtful band. Though their methods are sometimes maddening, when they hit the right notes they reveal something special and even beautiful.
Liars – Drum’s Not Dead
This Heat – This Heat
Shellac – At Action Park
Listen: My Disco: MySpace
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.