HOVERCRAFT'S CAUSTIC MUSIC rocks out spastically, approaching the gigantism of cock-rock, while eluding any testosterone-addled delusions of grandeur. In short, Hovercraft play industrial music. Yet, unlike mainstream industrial, the band isn't concerned with retooled goth or glam, unrequited hate, or pitiful ranting. Instead it addresses an issue that Trent Reznor and Al Jourgensen's yowls and yammers have never really resolved: How do we react to the sound of technology taking over?
Hovercraft, a Seattle-based trio, have no ties to the "industrial" scene. They've got the stoic, impersonal post-rock shtick down pat, often performing in the dark and/or behind a movie screen. But while most post-rock bands want to expand on rock by infusing rhythmic and melodic complexity inspired by the great Krautrock and modern classical masters, Hovercraft keep their focus on rock, attempting to deconstruct the music's archetypal aggression without resorting to shredding or sludge.
Experiment Below is a harrowing album that builds tension and release in swells of noise. It's even more abstract and propulsive than the band's 1997 debut, Akathisia, and also less self-consciously constructed. Where Akathisia featured occasional melodies and chords, Experiment Below declares war on melody altogether. Guitarist campbell 2000 is the focal point. He doesn't merely noodle with noise, but crafts it skillfully, sculpting warped, atonal textures while teaching his old delay pedals mind-boggling new tricks. His sound is obtuse and fierce, evoking scorching sheet metal, sizzling wires, and screeching claws on a chalkboard.
Throughout, Experiment Below is a mesmerizing challenge to listeners' attention spans. It drains you. The dizzying fuzz roar on the pseudo chorus of "Anthropod" sounds like booster engines firing. The guitar chimes on "Transmitter Down" sound like desperate, indecipherable Morse code signals.
But the details matter less than the smoldering finished products. Hovercraft create disturbing sounds, but their music is strangely moving, often due to an initially undetectable connection to the blues. Hovercraft grab onto shards of blues progressions and refuse to let go, especially on "Endoradiosonde," where drummer dash 11 and bassist sadie 7 grind on a mutated fragment of a ZZ Top-ish rave-up. At the band's best, Hovercraft inject musical (and metaphysical) soul into their menacing sounds.
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