It shouldn’t come as a surprise, for those who track the eternal return of music genres via revival, that hot on the heels of the Goth/postpunk trend we would begin seeing the reemergence of industrial music. What may prove especially interesting about this resurgence, though, is industrial’s inherent forward/future-facing outlook. What does this futuristic perspective, originally adopted in the Eighties, mean then versus where we are at now? The present doesn’t necessarily look like Blade Runner, but nevertheless we live in a world where, among other things, we carry supercomputers in our pockets, hackers are playing an important role in elections, and unmanned killer robots are flying through the skies.
Like so many of the new wave of industrial bands (Youth Code, High-Functioning Flesh, etc.), Austin-based duo Street Sects reveal a gritty, almost old-school approach on their debut End Position. Touted by Flenser Records as a marriage of punk and industrial, Street Sects reaches back past the sleek ’90s take on the genre to the early and dark underbelly of industrial, invoking the work of Throbbing Gristle, early Skinny Puppy and Einstürzende Neubauten.
The Street Sects sound consists of shards of percussive flak thrown out in the form of almost danceable beats, yet the tempos often push the genre’s previous speed limits. Multiple times in the course of the album, everything breaks down into brutal, serrated cadences with harsh vocals driving the point home. Yet, Leo Ashline‘s vocals also succeed in providing the listener a foothold amongst the maddening locust swarm that serves as music. He conjures any number of disparate styles to provide a center of focus, sometimes screaming out harsh extreme vocals, other times whispering the lyrics and occasionally even singing in the tortured manner of Trent Reznor.
Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist Shaun Ringsmuth constructs a violent sonic architecture. Complementing the constantly shifting rhythmic madness, he utilizes a combination of synth sounds and straight-up noise to create a soundscape of desperation and savagery. Occasionally, the tempos and noise combine to push things into digital hardcore territory, but with more sophistication than is usually found in that particular genre. Every piece is a labyrinth of destructed beats and sound, echoing the vocals in their pained execution and sense of fractious decay.
Perhaps the greatest success of End Position, though, is the duo’s songwriting prowess. While this doesn’t manifest in the form of memorable hooks or hummable melodies, Ashline and Ringsmuth are able to provide a constantly shifting dynamic that constantly builds tension and then climaxes in moments of cathartic release. Street Sects is by turns punk-like and hyperactive and, at other moments, dark and brooding. Their unpredictability is its own form of catchiness, keeping the listener’s attention trying to figure out where they’ll go next.
With End Position, industrial music continues to breathe new life. Whatever futuristic orientation industrial inherently possesses isn’t manifest through sleeker sounds but through more and more harshness, greater levels of chaos and decay. The future is now and while it is brighter and glossier than the dystopian darkscapes imagined by the genre’s original innovators, just beneath the surface, things might just be worse than we ever imagined.