Darkness prevails. The liminal squalor of a post-capitalist society where individuals fall through the gaps in a fragmented society. A hazy dystopian mist hangs over the bleak landscape that feels devoid of passion, a place that almost seems to revel in the absence of hope…the future being a destination filled with dread. Yet amongst the ravaged carcasses of human culture there lies beauty, not the sort of beauty that engenders hope; but a beauty that at least provides a respite from the endless cacophony of the mundane.
This is the essence of the new Dead Sea Apes release, ‘Sixth Side of the Pentagon’, which draws you in with its laid back dub style and then hits you squarely between the eyes as you begin to realise the heft of the band’s ambition with this album. Track after track seeks to peel back the thin veneer of late-capitalist society and reveal the ugly reality that we at best see only opaquely through. This is most palpably evident in the tracks that include Adam Stone’s dystopian monologues which seek to identify the malevolent concealing nature of the ‘system’.
The album, as I understand it, began as a series of dub vignettes, some of which have survived as interludes between the tracks (Sixth Side versions I to IV); but then developed to each have a character of its own. Yet because of the way they developed they very much share an eerie atmosphere which, perhaps because of the space that the dub style creates a sense of emptiness and despair. Stone has then punctuates this with a spoken style which accentuates the qualities of the music to produce something very dark indeed.
Nowhere is this more so than on ‘Tentacles’, the track that is being premiered here. This is probably the central track of the album, as evidenced by Stone’s long commentary on the track…printed on the album’s insert (see below).
I have already written about a previous Dead Sea Apes performance with Adam Stone (here), and think that the two compliment each other very effectively with the latter adding a layer of meaning to an already powerful musical message.
However, while the two Stone tracks (he also appears on ‘Pale Anxieties’) are for me the fullest realisation of what the band are seeking to do here; this is not to suggest that the rest of the album is in any way lacking. ‘Sixth Side of the Pentagon’ is, I feel, a real step forward for the band. Still there is the experimentalism, the taking of risks and the obvious realisation of a vision. Like all Dead Sea Apes albums this has been meticulously put together, and while the band have dabbled with dub before, most notably on their ‘Spectral Domain’ release, the way that they have embraced it here is quite striking.
Opening track ‘The Map Is Not A Territory’ opens bravely and sparsely. It seems to be challenging you to engage from the outset…it is only when you really listen to it that you realise the complexity of the track, which could otherwise drift over you. This for me is an interesting approach which maps Stone’s call to tear away the veil of unseen yet hegemonic oppression. Listen to this album on one level and its a cool dub album, listen more closely and begin to see the sonic substrata that illustrate the less palatable elements of our society.
Elsewhere ‘Nerve Centre’ reminded me of some early PiL, Gang of Four and Pop Group moments in terms of its intensity and the angularity of the music; while ‘Lo Res’, probably my favourite of the instrumental tracks, exemplifies the eerie beauty of this album with the lugubriousness of the guitar acting as a perfect counterpoint to the dub of the bass and drums. This is why this album, and actually thinking about it all Dead Sea Apes albums, work for me. The band do not play in the way a three-piece traditionally play. It is not guitar plus rhythm section, but three musicians who are all, in a way, leading; yet working together closely towards a common goal.
For me all Dead Sea Apes releases are special but I find this one, along with ‘Lupus‘, to be ahead of the pack. It is both an departure and a leap forward for a band who are continuing to push their sound and their vision into new areas. It is an album that is political, experimental, and complex. It is an album that will have you thinking and, if it does its job, it will challenge you to think more deeply about the world around you. For all these reasons it is for me pure bloody essential!
‘Sixth Side Of The Pentagon’ is released as an edition of 500 LPs – 150 of which are blood red translucent vinyl for direct sales only. Digi Pack Cds will also be available.- by Cardinal Fuzz in the UK and Sky Lantern Records in the US.