The damning force of the Pacific Northwest’s previously predictable weather systems are a torched blanket upon the rusted shopping cart of my personal identity. It all died above me at some point in the last two decades. Where mists used to turn to torrents that’d drive all but the most ruthless of us nutjobs and fuckfaces off the Portland sidewalks, now hanging ash clouds and heat wave replace our comfortably wet misery. Anyone driven to excuse their spinning head and dryly stoned exterior with seasonal affective disorder in the years previous simply assimilated into the greater mania of humanity, where rain comes as it sees fit and nothing is certain, nothing is comfortable anymore. Analgesic to the changing climes of our dry-rotting paradise exists, though, in the wealth of mangy, addled and sonically cruel independent rock music out of our formerly soaked, and occasionally frozen wastes. Prime heat fumes off the sweating mass of Portland, Oregon noise rock quartet Ils who formed whenever and with members of whoever. This is no legacy throwback or ‘members of’ parade but, a new fifteen minute punch to the braces for nerds who love the taste of their own blood in 2019.
Maybe it was the teeth on the cover or sound of crows fleeing the forest as vocalist Tom Glose (Black Elk) screamed bloody hell across the width of opener “No Luck” but I couldn’t help but think of ‘Vegas Throat’ when I fired up this admittedly heavier, aggro noise rock/post-hardcore EP. There is a journalistic fetish applied to coverage of modern noise rock that includes always mentioning The Jesus Lizard in every review of every band but the only early 90’s reference you could get away with here is maybe the screamier side of Oxbow‘s ‘Fuckfest’ and the heavier bluesy post-hardcore wretch of early Unsane (see: ‘Total Destruction’). The tendency to remember Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile‘s ascent as heavier than it ever was comes symptomatic of a revisionists interest in the noise rock sub-genre’s inbreeding with the full spectrum of post-hardcore. No doubt Ils belong in the same record collection as any of those moldy greats but today in the wide open plains of American rock music ‘Pain Don’t Hurt’ will tickle the millennial freakout bones of Child Bite and 400 Blows fans, alongside anyone who thought that second Black Elk record needed to focus on the ‘hook’ a bit more.
If I’m going to listen to a noise rock record for more than ten minutes it needs a bass guitar tone that holds up and Ils‘ low end comes from Christopher Frey (Porch, ex-Today is the Day) who ducks a bit in the mix, distorted just enough to remind me of Hammerhead‘s ‘Ethereal Killer’ sometimes and No Means No others. There inches a hard poke of alt-rock within as Ils trails between jagged Unsane-esque noise rock and puffs of modern post-hardcore; By the time “Northstar” and “Curse” rolled by I felt the generally wide range of expression on hand bodes well for any potential full-lengths of the future. Not only are these songs concise and memorable but the distinction between each is the work of old pros with a keen grip on balancing the heavy and the resonant. There is a wealth of easy-grooving torture seeping through the spacious rhythms of ‘Pain Don’t Hurt’ and that is to say that there is a consciousness, a breath upon the neck with both hugging arms and stabbing hands, that drives the full listen. I found myself reconsidering the pretense of Quicksand‘s recent outer-spaced grooves as I listened to this and saw its core melted down and molded into bassy post-hardcorish tirade, a black-belching of whatever mucosal plug blocks the filth center of the brain.
I felt anguish and absurdism above any spectacular gimmickry, at least, and for that I can recommend Ils‘ debut release. Even without considering the great potential of this project as a whole I can celebrate how full-range this EP comes as a sharp introduction to the world of noise rock. Highly recommended and among my favorite releases of the last several months. For preview the duo of “Northstar” and “Curse” is a brilliant introduction to the band’s sound but I found myself really bought into the dynamic of “It’s Not Lard But It’s A Cyst”.
Stellar affect. 4.25/5.0
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