Disappear by Ceremony (Review)
Once upon a time, there was a band called Skywave who became the terror of sound guys everywhere for deliberately doing soundchecks at one volume, and performing at a much louder one (if you’ve heard any of their releases, such as 2003’s Synthstatic, then you’d understand the sound guys’ fear).
From the ashes of that band sprung A Place To Bury Strangers, who have received all kinds of acclaim from Pitchfork, PopMatters, and Stylus, and Ceremony, who hasn’t received quite as much acclaim despite exploring much of the same sonic territory with the same amount of ferocity and volume.
I went ga-ga over Ceremony’s self-titled CD-R debut. Perhaps I’m something of a masochist, but I instantly fell in love with its ear-piercing levels of noise, distortion-shrouded pop hooks, and icily detached vocals. Disappear (Safranin Sound, 2007) doesn’t deviate too far from that. The guitars are still ramped up to eleven on the Distort-O-Meter, the effects pedals and feedback turn every note into a blinding nova of sound, and the vocals are as detached — and ultra cool — as ever.
However, the duo of Paul Baker and John Fedowitz indulge a bit more in the electronic, synth-y side of things this time around. Such elements were there in the debut, but this time, they move out a bit from behind the walls of amps and stacks of effects pedals. Which means that, while Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy and Honey’s Dead are still the most obvious jumping off points for describing Ceremony’s sound, they’re not necessarily the most accurate.
The drum programming — which has always had a neo-industrial music tone, due to the rough, distorted nature of the band’s music — is more prevalent here, and the blinding sheets of guitar noise on “Nothing Inside” and “No Good For You” are underpinned by the kind of bouncy, percolating synthwork that has been, and will always be, associated with New Order. In an odd way, Ceremony could pass for Cut Copy’s cousin, or at least make for a good b-side — but whereas Cut Copy wants to get the kids jumping up and down in the disco, Ceremony, in their black leather and even blacker sunglasses, is more interested in starting back alley knife fights.
The electronica’s greater prevalence does, though, detract from the band’s core strength — over-driven, speaker-blowing, ear-shredding guitar assaults — which can make Disappear frustratingly uneven. Thankfully, there are tracks like “Never Love Again” and “Miss You” that are nothing but, and are rather quite glorious as a result.
In any case, Ceremony’s ultimate saving grace isn’t their mastery of volume, the number of their effects pedals, or the size of their amps, but rather, their understanding of brevity. Only two of Disappear’s songs cross the four-minute mark. Which keeps the pain short, but oh so sweet (and makes even clunker lyrics palatable, especially when delivered in that android-like detachment). The brevity keeps everything packed together into a nice, tight ball of pure sonic mayhem that, in its best moments, is absolutely exhilarating, even if only in a masochistic sort of way.