Comprising members of Unsane, Swans and Cop Shoot Cop, New York quartet Human Impact embrace all of those bands’ qualities and add a rebellious Noise element which belies the middle age quickly enveloping the protagonists. Debut album Human Impact (Ipecac Recordings) sees that collective maturity provides a focused, prowling edge.
The scattergun synth sample of opener ‘November’ gives way to Christopher Pravdica‘s rumbling bass; droning chords; a chaotic yet powerful beat; and Chris Spencer‘s tempered roar: the ensemble a mass seething with tension that gradually builds into an oppressive, head-crushing pressure. This oozes edgily, robotically, into the magnificent ‘E605’: Phil Puleo‘s syncopated style seemingly at odds with a natural rhythm yet creating a special intensity with fellow Swan Pravdica’s oscillating notes, Spencer’s cascading guitar reducing the swell just as it threatens to consume.
This is Human Impact in a nutshell: bizarre yet bruising songcraft, elements that shouldn’t fit yet collide with wondrous euphoria in the explosion, then spiral to a teeth-grinding calm which waits for the next squall. ‘Protester’ is governed by Jim Coleman‘s Punk-flavoured organ, Spencer’s vocal reaching fever pitch, his guitar and the rhythm section shooting bullets at random while making a song of incredible depth, sensibility, and violence. ‘Portrait’ again relies on Coleman’s sampling nous, a Psychedelic outset dripping warps over growling guitar and tribal rhythms, while the verse displays a Depeche Mode-like coldness before bursting into another brief but bristling exclamation. It’s a similar template for the ensuing ‘Respirator’, Coleman and Spencer rejoining forces to provide a Bunnymen-esque 80s Indie expression above a sporadic yet breathtaking rhythm section.
Coleman’s keys, while always electric, can touch the heart as well as tear it. The icicle drops introducing ‘Cause’ aren’t dwarfed by Spencer’s squealing chords and his irresistible ‘Watch the sun sink’ mantra, while electronic pulses throb alongside Puleo’s remarkably effective missing beats. Indeed the invention and subsequent sound grows ever more reminiscent of Talking Heads, if only that seminal 70s mob had possessed this level of intensity and might: ‘Consequences’ fizzes with anger and resentment, its strange quiet passages a mere precursor to a pummelling chorus.
The atmospheric interlude ‘Relax’ still manages to make the mind implode for its 49 seconds, while the penultimate ‘Unstable’ sees the return of Spencer’s plaintive barrage, coating a fluctuating yet nerve-shredding body in fearful emotion. The band’s full power, skill, and organic fire are encapsulated perfectly in closer ‘This Dead Sea’: the bass and drum combination a brutal attack; the swirl of the waves dancing with the flotsam around the pulsing, hammering ferocity. The experience of this quartet is an obvious pointer to the level of accomplishment achieved here, but to unify that with such tightness and creativity takes some doing. Human Impact delivers such a statement, and more.
8 / 10