Expect this Glasgow-based band’s singularly sinister sounds to flourish in the gloom.
Mike Diver 2012-02-20
Something of a chicken and egg situation presents itself to every newly formed band. To tour first, firming up a foundation of finely honed live material; or to record, isolating yourself and risking eventually playing your pored-over creations to an audience of none? Studio-exclusive concoctions have an annoying habit of translating poorly to on-stage execution, so Glasgow band Die Hard’s decision to spend nine months of 2011 working on this debut LP was either taken based on incredible confidence or hindering nervousness – either they were sure these works would sound as alive under spot lights, or so significant were their doubts about performing to a crowd that retreat was the best form of attack.
All that’s certain is the quality of this 10-track collection – this is a highly accomplished offering indeed, evidencing a wickedly original talent at play; and if it’s an encapsulation of potential you’re after from your new bands, the personnel of Die Hard state their collective case with aplomb. Compared to Animal Collective by Scottish publication The Skinny, the sense of experimentation exuded by the Baltimore-founded freaky-indie stars is apparent here – and Die Hard don’t hold back in delivering a sound at turns confrontational and comforting. Album opener In the Garden mixes eerie effects-soaked vocals with music that veers from delightful strings to savage electro throbs: it’s not the sort of song you want to be alone with in a dark room, its schizophrenic design at once enthralling and, actually, a little upsetting.
Pleasanter-sounding (read: more jangling, less gates-of-Hell-opening) fare follows, though: Here Goes the Rage’s acoustic guitar cuts through cleanly, and here the vocals are as crisp as they get on these tracks. It’s as close as Die Hard come to a sing-along, as rising strings embellish an effortless indie-pop arrangement. Nailed to the Cross isn’t quite as bleak as its title might suggest, halfway towards tropical colours before the Scottish grey intrudes to keep the piece grounded; but, later, Mmmm returns this set to the darker corners of the average musician’s psyche, beginning with what sounds like the creaking open of a trapdoor before all manner of nasty groans spill forth. And it’s this menacing clouds approach that typically succeeds over blue-sky thinking.
Samplers can obviously recreate this intoxicating miasma in a public space; but really, this is music for experiencing on headphones, for the listener to surround themselves with until the chills have become all-consuming. As befits a very studio-based project, it’s likely to wither and die in too much sunlight; but seeing as this lot call Glasgow home, expect their singularly sinister sounds to flourish.