With Distant Populations, post-hardcore veterans Quicksand are now two-albums deep into their reunion phase. That’s on-par with their heralded original run from the ‘90s. 2017 comeback effort Interiors perhaps faced external pressure in terms of fan expectations, having come 22 years after the band’s previous release, Manic Compression. The act wore that challenge well—If anything, the ‘lax and spacey sonics made for an ultra-chill, if grooving, incarnation of the band. If there was a mental hurdle to clear with that first reunion LP, Distant Populations is Quicksand confidently kicking into fourth gear for an altogether more abrasive and adrenalized victory lap.
Interiors crushed through pieces like the hypnotically roaring “Illuminant” and “Under the Screw,” but also housed pseudo ballads like “Cosmonauts”. Distant Populations is more prone to go for the throat with chunkier grooves and meaner hooks. “Inversion” proves this off the jump, with its lean and ominous three-note melody and yowling guitar bends making for a jarring introduction; the stoney “Colossus” is guitarist-vocalist Walter Schreifels, bassist Sergio Vega, and drummer Alan Cage excelling in pure, brute efficiency. On “Missile Command,” Vega’s taut, quarter note bass bends are all nervous tension, Quicksand eventually resolving this with a full-band explosion. Though Quicksand have often thrived on those kinds of bounce-heavy grooves, Distant Populations also jacks up the tempo with the exquisitely gnarly “Lightening Field” and “The Philosopher.”
While heavier than Interiors, Distant Populations isn’t without melody. Though Schreifels is still shouting through its more aggressive moments, his voice has aged into an oaken tenor on more vocally tuneful moments like “Phase 90”. He’s also pushed his pedalboarding to new heights, with various phasers, delays, and reverbs springing off into the ether—the aforementioned “Phase 90” is named after the celebrated MXR effects pedal of the same name, after all. Elsewhere, “Brushed” thrives on choppy drum loops and a psych-swirl of tremolo effects. “Katakana” imagines post-hardcore dub, with echo-caked guitar noise spiralling skyward above the locked-in rhythm section of Vega and Cage.
“EMDR” arguably delivers one of the most unhinged moments on the record, with Schreifels powering into a chaotic micro-solo of uncouth bends. Earlier, a seafaring three-quarter groove supports his yearning, wistful cry of “I remember when we were 17/There’s nothing we wouldn’t dare.” There’s a nostalgic lean to this line, but it’s a bit of a red herring in the broader context of Distant Populations, Quicksand’s most adventurous song cycle yet.
Order Distant Populations by Quicksand HERE