Initially making a name for themselves with their brand of angular post-punk, My Disco quickly won over Australian audiences with their debut album, Cancer and sophomore follow-up, Paradise becoming firm favourites amongst discerning public and press alike.
Chameleonic U.S. label Temporary Residence soon jumped on board releasing the trio’s third album, Little Joy. The album was something of a departure for the band focussing on repetition and exploring the spaces between notes. The album also introduced a more melodic side, particularly in the vocals of Liam Andrews.
Almost 5 years later the trio return with Severe which, in many ways plays in stark contrast to the melodic elements of its predecessor as the band push their fondness for repetition to the outer limits in a singular vision of uneasy restraint; Bleak and powerful like a towering monolith looming over a ravaged city skyline.
Album opener ‘Recede’ begins with a repetitive plucked bass line, stripped of low end, fuzzy and mechanical, setting the grim tone for what’s to come. ‘1991’ follows with all 3 members playing in unison, their short, sharp stabs aligning for maximum impact. This theme is explored throughout the album with the trio often condensing into a tight, regimented unit flanked by queasy sine wave synth lines. Occasionally a member is allowed to stray (usually guitarist Benjamin Andrews) but never too far before snapping back into phalanx formation.
Where their previous efforts tended to stick with a certain sound in terms of each individual instrument, Severe finds the band changing tact with each instrument taking on a cavernous depth as if the band has spent the time between albums digging into the dark, hollow depths below the earth’s surface. But the vast, expansive sound never detracts from the immediacy of the instrument; for example the booming echo of the toms is brought into focus by the impact of stick pounding on the skin.
Tracks like ‘Successive Pleasure’ and ‘Our Decade’ ease off the gas slightly, instead opting for a slow burn tension; Benjamin Andrews’ guitar shimmering and desolate, whilst brother Liam’s eerie, deadpan vocals take on an almost robotic quality.
Closer ‘Careless’ maintains the sense of anxiety; the relentless, pummelling motion gives the sense of being pursued by some unstoppable force.
Severe is certainly a darker venture for the band, one that they have dived wholeheartedly into. The consistent tone and thematic cohesion is testament to the band’s vision for the album, strapping the listener in from the outset and providing no easy exit until the final note. Severe proves that whatever direction My Disco take in the future the results will be no doubt compelling.