A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS – “EXPLODING HEAD” (MUTE, 2009)

As I walked outside the Urban Lounge on 10.21.09 following the Place To Bury Strangers/All The Saints show, I was hit square in the face by something huge and oppressive. Silence. It was louder than any of APTBS guitar freak outs or minimal three chord ear lobe destryoers. APTBS played so loud that silence hurt my ears. I have combined my record review of A Place To Bury Strangers for the sole reason that the two listening experiences are not mutually exclusive. In fact they should go hand in hand. Listening to Exploding Head entertains the idea that this shoegaze/noise band could be menacingly loud, the massive riffs speak for themselves. Cornered in the same space with them and they will leave you messed up, nursing a black eye and a ruptured ear drum. Unleash these untempered waves of post-Loveless waves of processed guitar waves of noise through some huge amps in a tiny venue and you have a nuclear holocaust.

I had the opportunity to sit down with APTBS frontman/guitarist Oliver Ackerman and bassist Jono to discuss their recording process, his guitar effects company and signing to legendary imprint Mute. As their music would suggest otherwise, they were all super friendly guys my interview and photos will be up on www.inyourspeakers.com in the coming week. Local noise/funk renegades Laserfang opened the sparsely packed Urban Lounge before the Alabama/Atlanta band All The Saints took the stage. All The Saints blew me away, sounding like a cross between Smashing Pumpkins and Lightning Bolt, stood on their own and matched APTBS with their frentic energy, brooding angst and virtuoso playing. By the time APTBS took the stage smoke machines were going, the lights were off and everyone was silent. A forced silence because talking during APTBS show is literally impossible. This is the first show I ever used ear-plugs (cotton balls) and I am glad I chose to only take 3 years off of my hearing longevity instead of 5. Halfway through their set you really begin to notice how oppressive the noise is, like someone standing on your chest. The experience is truly awe-inspiring, instead of the show being a communal act, being drowned in sound forces you to crawl inside yourself, making the event a very personal experience. Ackerman flailed around the stage like he was on fire unleashing brutal tirades of squalor effectively flattening all those complicated hearing mechanisms in our ears.

A Place to Bury Strangers do not just take their cues from legendary bands like My Bloody Valentine oJesus and the Mary Chain or the Dead C. They encapsulate everything I love about those bands. The beguiling simplicity that unfolds as you dig deeper into a track. APTBS has a sound that is endlessly deep, listen to a song a million times and you will never get to the bottom of it. Oliver Ackerman can record a 100 layer guitar track in about five hours. That is dangerous.

A cursory listen to Exploding Head does not do this band justice. To listen to the album in the manner intended I would suggest turning off all the lights in a room filled floor to ceiling with amps while sitting cross legged in front of a strobe light.

Ryan H.

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