When These Are Powers made their harrowing introduction via a self-titled EP, they embodied the spirit of dissonant, Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth and their No Wave brethren. And on their subsequent release, first full length Terrible Seasons, they carried that noisy, tribal, freak-punk sound toward a more abstract, Liars-like ambience. Since that release, however, the band has signed to Dead Oceans, home of Bishop Allen and John Vanderslice among others, and found a more pronounced groove. The result: All Aboard Future, the band’s first `dance’ record.
Okay, maybe that’s oversimplifying things a bit. In some ways, you could dance to TAP’s previous records. And in many ways, this is miles away from a true “dance” record. But at its core, All Aboard Future is an album built around beats and rhythms. Sometimes they’re difficult and abstract beats and rhythms, mind you, but they’re beats and rhythms all the same. Suffice it to say, this is These Are Powers’ most accessible record, though given their history of tweaking melody to weird and frightening places, that may not be saying much. And yet, I’m sticking with my statement.
More than just being TAP’s most accessible album, All Aboard Future is, in fact, the band’s best. While the band has retained most of their experimental, noisy aspects, there’s a greater sense of melody, rhythm and structure. The record feels more whole, straight from the opening clicks and claps of “Easy Answers.” The group picks up a bit of steam with the Abe Vigoda-like squeal-punk onslaught of “Life of Birds,” which, for all its choppy cut-ups and dissonant squalls, is actually kind of catchy. From there, the Brooklyn trio lunges into a dub-industrial throb on “Double Double Yolk,” marrying the post-punk of Public Image Limited with the old school electro of Kraftwerk. “Parallel Shores” is oddly melodic with its subtle approach, which quickly becomes a screeching wall of distortion. “Glass Blocks” and “Adam’s Turtle” feature a similar kind of beat clashing, while “Sand Tassels” and “Blue Healer” take a turn away from the overbearing industrial beats for a quirky kind of ambience and electronic throb to close out the record.
With each record, These Are Powers manage to reveal new aspects of their sound, as far out and dissonant as it is. All Aboard Future may not be the group’s ticket to prime time, but what they’ve ultimately created on this album is something with wider appeal, no matter how bizarre some of it might be. More importantly, though, they’re refining and improving their craft, and while their initial releases may have shown promise, All Aboard Future is the realization of that promise.
MP3: “Life of Birds”
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.