Thursday, June 4, 2015

Institute : "Catharsis"

An super group of the Austin punk scene, the band has members doing double duty in other bands such as Wiccans, Blotter, Back to Back and continues place the emphasis on punk in the post-punk equation.The bass point is there. The guitar has the jerky clang of a band like Gang of Four. Like most punk the tempo and simplistic nature of the chord progression can cause everything to sound the same so Institute sets themselves aside on "I am Living Death". The vocals are only somewhat sung in a mumbled narrative so the guitar takes on the bulk of the melodic duties.They quickly revert back a more straight up punk urgency on "Helplessness" though the vocals become more deadpan.

It's clear the bass player really has some chops, his playing reminds me of  Stuart Morrow from New Model Army as his playing is more adventurous and melodic than you would expect from a punk band. Granted New Model Army grew with Morrow and the punk label didn't fit as snugly on later albums, while it sticks solidly to this band.The awkward twang of  the instrumental "Untitled" is more of an interlude than an actual song. The guitars take a darker tone on "Leathernecks". The band has stated before that they want to steer clear of the gothy side of early punk, and I think they adhere to that mission statement on this album. The bass line  and droning tom work on "No Billowing Wind" does bring this into question, but it lacks the  romantic elegance which makes something goth.

From a production stand point the mix is muddy where it needs to be , but the tones of all the instruments is very pure. I think the placement of the vocals in the mix and the use of effects on them is one thing that keeps this from just being a punk album. That is not to say the album doesn't have its raw garage punk moments as that can be found on "Cheaptime Morals" where a burly bass tone almost over powers the song. While it might not release the bats, the shadows over this song make it one of the album's highlights.

The bring the album to a close with "Christian Right" that calls them out on their Joy Division influence. The song has more of a drone than the others. The vocals are more punk than Ian Curtis. The vocals take on a chant that creates a hypnotic feel not found elsewhere on the album. This album is fun and sounds great. A far as punk goes they are growing in the right direction. While the hectic pace punk keeps can create a limit to dynamics these guys get the most they can out of that frame work for where they are at. I'll give this an 8.5.

The album comes out June 9th on Sacred Bones.


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