Pinkish Black, the Fort Worth duo of vocalist/keyboardist Daron Beck and drummer Jon Teague, have lived long enough to hear the hollowness in all the clichés about our fleeting existence. They know life tends to overstuff that eye blink that transpires between birth and death. And nobody's guaranteed a full one life to live.
Concept Unification, the duo's fourth album, maps the various ways the landscapes of our lives and minds change as the grains of days, months, and years descend the hourglass. For nearly a decade now Beck and Teague have welded doom metal's creeping pulse to the frightening beauty of languid electronic melodies. And Beck's always knocked down humanity's attic doors to see what skeletons hide inside. With Concept he pulls back the curtain of 21st-century's Oz to reveal the forces capitalism asks you not to pay attention to. Memories, old hangouts, and entire eras can be gentrified by the need to sell same things to new people. On songs such as the stalking "Dial Tone," the hypnotic "Until," and the haunting title track, his seductive baritone charts how the present destroys the past toward the promise of some new and improved future scrubbed free of human messiness, under which Teague's pulse maintains a tense calm until blossoming into fight-or-flight intensity.
Pinkish Black's consistent ability to find the musical pleasure amid such disquieting terrain is what tethers the duo to the metal, prog, and death rock comparisons it typically receives, but Concept Unification reveals a band branching off into a realm of heavy music where it has few peers. Case in point: "Next Solution," a focused sprawl that suggests the menace of composer George Crumb's "Black Angels," the political anxiety of George Haas' "In Vain," the elastic lurch of screwed-and-chopped rhythms going through withdrawal, and Robert Wyatt's genius for finding pop hooks in melancholic melodies.
For too long now Beck and Teague have honed their singular sound in the shadow of the band's formation. Concept Unification isn't trying to step into the light so much as acknowledge that the complicatedly simple act of breathing and existing in the world right now is fraught for everybody. Put enough years in the rearview mirror and we all have to find ways to survive untimely passings, health scares, and the Sisyphean loops of balancing precarious employment with personal pursuits. So live long; prosper, even. And may thee fare well in preserving the images in your memory's photo albums from turning into graveyards slowly buried under the ever forward inching ivies of progress.
Well, here we are. It’s not the future we were promised, but it’s probably the future we deserve. When we last met, we were down here in Texas trying to turn our red state a lighter shade of purple. Then came the shock, the devastation, the people shouting, “This is not who we are!” So, we cranked up the Power Trip album, read that Naomi Klein book, and moved through the dystopia to look for explanations as we set out to make another record. Just as suspected, we quickly confirmed that this is EXACTLY who we are. We just have extremely short memory retention and a distorted self-image (See also: side effects of post-colonial imperialism and white supremacist capitalist patriarchy). What started as an angry protest album (you’re welcome for ditching that direction) became a clear-eyed exploration of how we got to this dreary moment in history.
I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It is the fourth full-length album from Dallas trio Nervous Curtains. It marks the first proper release since 2015’s Con; the band dropped two shorter releases in the interim, Low Defender EP (2016 – Dreamy Life) as well as an original instrumental horror soundtrack on Vinegar Syndrome’s 2017 DVD/BluRay release of the 1983 supernatural slasher, Blood Beat.
I Tried To Fight It… is heavy music comprised of synthesizers, drums, and vocals. The band has left behind the retro leanings of previous releases and has produced a menacing sound that mirrors the fear, chaos, and defiance of the present moment. The drums alternately stab and swagger in head-nodding syncopation, the sawtooth waves cut forcefully through the mix, the hooks are leaner, meaner, and everything is dialed to a shadowy psychedelia which offers no escapism.
Opener “Mass Amnesia” proves that you need no guitars to make thrash music about the forever wars; Moog bass riffs and creeping Carpenter-esque synths will do just fine. “Paramilitary Re-enactor” embodies the lurk of fascism that right-wing authoritarianism and militarized, post-truth society brings about with pulsing electronics and syncopated drums that build to climactic release. Album centerpiece “Fatal Flaw” starts with a solitary hypnotic synth bass, adding harsh but danceable rhythmic textures and synth and mellotron layers as vocalist Sean Kirkpatrick breathlessly rants on our cruel system that promises elusive success and freedom while telling you that your failure is your own fault. With a spiraling synth lead and pounding punk beat, closer “People Are Not Reasonable” speaks to the discordant informational chaos of our times. After crashing into a half-time doom breakdown, the final verse and melodic lead hint at an uplift peeking through the dread. Humans may be driven by irrational beliefs and easily swayed by propaganda, but there is a better world than this techno-surveillance monetized death machine we’ve swirled into. Whether the shrouded optimism, here, is genuine is up to the listener to decide and the future to reveal.
Nervous Curtains’ I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It was produced by Alex Bhore at Elmwood Studios in Dallas will be released on digital, CD, and cassette via Dreamy Life Records on August 9, 2019.
Nervous Curtains is Robert Anderson, Ian Hamilton, Sean Kirkpatrick