Monday, January 12, 2009

Best of 2008: #9. Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness

When I first heard this album, it was something of a revelation; I had downloaded “Waiting for Black Metal Records in the Mail” based on internet word of mouth, and there was something about it that gripped me entirely. It was slow, plodding, and ominous, with a leading guitar line like a strobe light at a rave, flickering madly amongst the translucent haze of distortion. It was also very, very good.

Have a Nice Life is the musical project of two men based in Conneticut who make experimental and expansive shoegaze/post-punk music that could be considered dance music for the clinically depressed. Deathconsciousness is the group's first album, a two-disc, 80+ minute trip through the recesses and crevices of the sub-conscious, and all the hope and regret that lies within. From the dive lounge aesthetic of "Bloodhail", to the quiet desperation of the aforementioned "Waiting for Black Metal Records in the Mail", to the wary elation of album closer "Earthmover", there are a number of different moods and feelings brought to mind here, which is just as representative of the album's ambition as of the passion put into it. Some songs show off the plaintive and gloomy side of the band ("The Big Gloom"), with slow, droning, almost abyssal shoegaze mixtures taking presence here, while others opt for a quicker pace, drawing comparisons to the gothic side of 80's post-punk ("Telephony"). At times, Have a Nice Life even wander into industrial territory, as seen in "Deep, Deep", which comes off as Throbbing Gristle as imagined by Joy Division (were that only possible).

At any rate, there's an almost ethereal quality to the layered mixture of guitar and synthetics that feels as if it transcends the immediacy of stimulus/response and burrows its way into your brain with ingenious hooks and a haunting atmosphere. A lot of the songs off Deathconsciousness manage to be emotionally resonant despite their prima facie impenetrability, so that even though the vocals are often blurred beyond recognition, buried under layers of distraction, they still come off as mournful, or confused, or bittersweet. Taking the whole of the many different moods developed throughout the entire album gives you a sort of manic depressive handbook, a portrait of bipolarity in the face of tragedy.

So while I’m not as big on Deathconsciousness as I was when I first heard it - it's overlong (although that could be considered part of its charm), it isn't an album you can just listen to at any time, and some of the songs (off the first disc especially) just lack any sufficient intrigue to them - it’s still an impressive album that’s full of dark, brooding, and occasionally beautiful shoegaze music, accentuated by a lo-fi production quality that conjures up images of spending late nights walking home and the lonely faded incandescent glow that guides each step. This is music that feels like it was made for 3 a.m. introspection, that washes over you and shelters itself within your thoughts. And for that, it's damn well near-perfect.

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