Album Review: Untied States

Album Review: Untied States
Album: Instant Everything, Constant Nothing
Label: Distile

It’s difficult to know with this kind of experimental music where the line between shite and genius exists. One person could listen to this and envisage the second coming of Jesus in musical form, whilst another will hear it and run for the hills (I appreciate this is a poor metaphor – if I knew Jesus was coming I’d do my best to get out of his way too). Perhaps it’s only possible to fully enjoy a record such as this if you spend you’re clued up on the technical vocabulary of rhythm and timing – a bit like how you can only ever fully appreciate a The Big Lebowski if you’ve indulged in an unhealthy amount of the green herb.

This, the fourth album from Atlanta’s Untied States is another journey through bizarre landscapes and mysterious sounds. Mostly sounding like a madman trying to climb the ever-growing, decaying walls of sanity, the experimental nature of the band has taken them down a path of difficult to comprehend sonic challenges, resulting in a listening experience that sometimes amazes, but often confounds.

That the likes of Sonic Youth, Fugazi and The Jesus Lizard are listed among their influences comes as no surprise, but they wear those cues close to their sleeves and sometimes lack the inventiveness to follow through on the lofty heights they aim for.

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact sound on ‘Instant Everything, Constant Nothing’. The band toy with horror-movie introductions, whilst the melodies act a bit like courting a woman, taking a patient set of ears to truly reveal themselves. Throughout there’s a discordant atmosphere: ‘Unsilvered Mirrors’ seems unsettled and disjointed, salvaged by the glue of Colin Arnstein’s vocal drawl.

Moments here sound like Hella on a grunge binge: ‘Grey Tangerines’ melds electronic glitches with a tight rhythm section that stops things floating off into an ethereal realm; ‘Take Time For Always’ delves into a macabre carnival with Arnstein edging close to yodelling at points.

There are moments when they show what they can be capable of: ‘Not Fences, Mere Masks’ wallows in its debt to Sonic Youth (notably in Colin Arnstein’s lackadaisical vocals) but stands out from most of the tracks here with guitars that inject a sense of  hard edged immediacy that drives the listener to the edge of their seat.

‘Instant Everything, Constant Nothing’ then is a perplexing recording, perhaps just too clever for its own good. Despite the title, there’s little instant about the 44 minutes of music on display here, and yet it would be a harsh criticism to suggest that the recording is as shallow as the name suggests. In the end it leaves a rather nonplussed impression, struggling to engage the listener or etch any of its various ideas into the mind. There are moments which prick the ears up, but the gaps in between them leave the listener frustrated and waiting for something exciting to happen. A bit like life then, just with more guitars.

MP3: Untied States – Not Fences, Mere Masks:

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