Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness
To begin, I would like to state a few basic tenets I more or less adhere to in regard to the medium of appraising sound recordings, A.K.A albums.
- ‘Albums’ are documents of recorded sound and should be held separate from the idea of ‘Music’ in so much as neither requires the other in order to exist. The art of capturing and manipulating sound, musical or otherwise is what makes an album. There is much more to it than the music itself just as there is much more to a painting than the subject depicted.
- Time does not “pass’’, rather it accumulates. Judging an album based on its constituent parts (I.E. songs) rather than as a whole deprives the album of its fullness. A couple of great/poor tracks do not necessarily make or break an album so long as they are subsumed by the cumulative overall effect of the piece.
- All albums are conceptual whether the artists involved are conscious of it or not.
Deathconsciousness materialized from the murk sometime in January. I discovered it while convalescing from some unidentifiable virus, drifting through a hazy fever dream that lies unsteadily between consciousness and unconsciousness. This seems to be precisely what this album is all about: a soundtrack to accompany the microcosmic drama that takes place during one form of illness or another.
Interestingly, Deathconsciousness plays out rather abstractly despite bearing strong song-based, post-punk influences. Hints of Joy Divison, early Cure and two Daniel Ash projects; Bauhaus and Love and Rockets, are prevalent throughout but are always tempered with an individual element that is none but the artists’ own. As with their influences, there is also a strong undercurrent of darkness bordering on flirtation with nihilism complete with all of the paradoxes that accompany such a fascination. Painting in dark, muted tones Have a Nice Life employ surface simplicity and shifting dynamics to weave an emotionally rich tapestry on the intriguingly titled opener “A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut”, before ripping it open with “Bloodhail”, a monumental expression of brooding intensity akin to the adrenal saturation of standing in a bell tower armed to the teeth. From there we shift restlessly again and again between laser focused purpose and fog-enveloped uncertainty sometimes within the same track, as on “Hunter“, the overall effect being one of disorientation and heightened alertness. “Telephony” is distant and alienated while “There is No Food” is grainy and remote. This distinction may seem null on paper but it becomes tangible in sonic form. “Waiting for Black Metal Records to Come in the Mail”, steeped in a dank Scandinavian underground ambiance and with a shredded aluminum guitar sound kick starts the second disc. Another dramatic transition, “Holy Fucking Shit - 40,000” begins with all the cracked optimism of a Flaming Lips’ outtake, giving way to a nervous breakdown at the midway point before finally returning to the jaunty happy-sad acoustic strumming. “Deep Deep” constructs vast marble columns of bass that support impossibly high spires of spindly treble, which “The Future” bulldozes in an inexorable yet somehow feeble industrial barrage. “I Don’t Love’s” oceanic pulse swallows up a lonely voice flailing futilely in the undertow yet in typically disorienting fashion the final track “Earthmover” is tinged with distorted hope, tiny corpuscles of light filtering through a shattered panel of stained glass.
The charges against Deathconsciousness are that it is overlong, inconsistent, and underdeveloped. I won’t argue any of these points but the failures of concision and focus conspire to create a most intriguing series of tensions and releases, and as stated above, the overall effect is what should be considered rather than the parts. On this front, the sprawling framework and tremulous waxing and waning lend an air of protracted despair occasionally punctured by glimmering shards of redemption through heightened intensity.
In Jacques-Louis David’s depiction of The Death of Marat which graces the cover of Deathconsciousness, Marat’s lifeless hand clings to a note that may as well read “resistance is futile…”. Have a Nice Life’s debut album shares with David’s painting an implied response of defiance to that statement: “…but we shall never cease trying”.