Have you ever been to a rave? No, like a real one. I’m talking about the kind that would be in warehouses, bunkers, or maybe even condemned buildings. What if the new generation of post punk kids all decided to throw a new kind of rave together in that fashion? New Material by Preoccupations asks this question. Are they having a good time? I really hope so. With lyrics this bleak and production this icy I really hope that the dancing is keeping them warm.
Jokes aside for now, there is a different sense of groove present here that didn’t exist on earlier Preoccupations albums. While rhythmically repetitive (read: danceable) like most rave and classic post punk, most of the songs on New Material carry with them a dismal, apocalyptic sentiment, but their anxiety is masked (or more likely accentuated) by the very new wavey melodies employed throughout (look to the Duran Duran-esque chorus of “Antidote” for a bold example). Locking into a groove and sticking with it is what most of New Material traffics in and when the band is successful, I couldn’t imagine anyone ditching the dance floor to watch the sun explode.
When the groove exits, the ambience that Preoccupations has excelled in creating since their first album as Viet Cong comes to the forefront. Album closer “Compliance” creates a transfixing miasma that really shows off the band’s ambient chops. It really does feel like it was recorded in the concrete room on the album cover. The same can be said about the production aesthetic of entire album. True to their roots, the production feels sufficiently frigid and distant at times which creates a sense of something more immediate than full on detachment, but not close enough to feel like any sort of embrace. Instead it feels more like slowly losing yourself in a dense, choking fog with nothing but an array of strobe lights to guide you deeper in. It might feel disorienting at first but there is a deliberate nature to the strobes; a definite modus operandi that never lets itself get obfuscated by the swathes of reverb on the guitars and synthesizers. To disorient and thrill is the name of the game, and Preoccupations are dead set on doing that better than anyone right now.
I really hope those ravers brought jackets, but then again, I don’t think they even care. The world’s ending anyway.