The Underside of Power
Algiers is one of those bands that just knows how to make music so abrasive its gripping. The Atlanta experimental genre-mashers come into their sophomore record with no fear and a stellar sense of song writing that always excites no matter how far they push the limits of their sound.
Shredding distortion and ominous piano opens the album on the boisterous “Walk Like A Panther” with aggressive screaming vocals ringing out. The moody melodies are made all the more unsettling with the pulsing drum beats as Franklin Fisher’s vocals rise above it all. With industrial overtones, “Cry of the Martyrs” drives forward on a relentless beat and howl. Entrancingly frantic in its b-section the bouncing bass, electric claps and soulful vocal lines come together with energizing force.
“The Underside Of Power” turns the drum machine up to overpowering levels as they lead a gospel-like verse with funk lines abound. Getting some soulful pop infused in their hectic chorus they craft something engaging both melodically and sonically. Huge, booming drums roll through “Death March” as they grow a dark and menacing groove increasingly heavy. Breaking into raw sound in its second half the song turns into a fiery burst of guitars as the playing and effects get to Lynchian levels of intensity.
A brooding bass and loose clap percussion create the mystical tone of “A Murmur. A Sign.” as Fisher’s loud cries reach for the heavens, harmonies along for the ride. A sad but hypnotizing piano line drives the melancholy of “Mme Rieux” as Fisher pulls it back for a more solemn track, building the weight in the emotion behind the track. Distorted guitars shriek out between verses as releases of utter pain, creating dynamic climaxes in the devastating track.
Ground-shaking bass drums lay at the core of “Cleveland” as Fisher belts out into the echo chamber around him. Playing as part electronica and part sonic-pushing experimental track. “Animals” goes visceral from the get-go with a throttling beat, endless screams and guitars that goes from screeching to straight out wails in a brutal assault of sound. As the deep bass cuts through, they lay moving dance grooves that elevate the songs already overpowering sound to something primal.
“Plague Years” buzzes and echoes into the massive reverb of the album, with flickering synths lines on board for a pensive interlude. In a trance-like roll, “A Hymn For An Average Man” bounces its melody up and down on a few piano notes, with Fisher teetering his melody continuously. As the strings tear open though, the bass comes in and the piano hits an eerie melody that finds the song on an evil kick forward.
Haunting from a mix of ambiance and sustained tension, “Bury Me Standing” lets a few saxophone notes loose in its distant scratches along. “The Cycle/The Spiral: Time to Go Down Slowly” shifts immediately to an off-kilter jazz-skiffle as its piano and drums make fast magic. Fisher crying along with the burning guitar and popping bass the track is already alight before its epic finale.
Words by Owen Maxwell