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A Place To Bury Strangers Pin Down Sound on New Album Pinned – Out Today!

I always imagined that Joy Division would have developed a sound akin to Brooklyn noise rockers A Place To Bury Strangers if Ian Curtis hadn’t died and the rest of the band developed an affinity for guitar pedals instead of synths.

What do I know though? I only discovered Joy Division through James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book in the wee early days of the 1990s, and was a bit too young to catch the Joy Division wave when it was actually cresting. Nevertheless, in APTBS’s sound, masterminded by singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann, one can hear a common musical thread that runs back through early goth bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and, of course, Joy Division. Instead of simply reading and regurgitating the musical text those bands engraved on the ivory tower of rock music though, APTBS truly adds to the conversation that is noise rock, goth rock, and the whole cathartic dive into the abyss that this type of music often represents.

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It’s a deep dive though, and not often for the faint of heart. Pinned is loaded with dark recesses, those of the soul and otherwise. There are flickering rays of light that occasionally break through the surface of these dark waters, like the excellent “Was It Electric.” Lighter and more dreamy, as opposed to nightmarish, Ackermann’s lyrics and delivery are less ominous, if nonetheless dark. While it doesn’t mark a jarring disconnect with their previous catalogue of music, it does reflect a branching out and embracing of a different structure and feel to their sonics, if not initiating a break with it.

Other moments on the album ground APTBS more deeply in the Joy Division/Dark Wave camp, like “I Know I’ve Done Bad Things”. Even though it follows the Joy Division template, it goes places way darker, and harder, sounding than anything Joy Division ever came up with.. Here is a prime example of APTBS contributing to the advancement of the goth rock genre in ways that are brilliant, mostly because at this point it appeared there was no new tales to tell as far as dark wave/goth was concerned.

APTBS are coming up with new tales musically that first and foremost push their own boundaries. With Pinned, APTBS fully transcend their noise rock moniker. Yeah, there’s plenty of noise to be heard on the album, but the structures of the songs are more intricate and (gasp!) conventional than before. With APTBS it seems that things are coming together in reverse for the band. It’s taken to their fifth album to put together a solid enough bedrock structure for the dark spirits of Ackermann’s noisey guitar lines to haunt. This is, in no small way way, the result of the addition of Lia Simone Braswell on drums, and, more importantly, on backing vocals. The mingling of male and female vocals within the same rock band goes all the way back to legends like Fleetwood Mac and Jefferson Airplane, and since it goes all that way back it’s traditional and not unique to rock music.

Adding a little traditional sound to APTBS via Braswell’s vocals, has a realigning effect on the band’s sound, making it less traditional sounding, at least in their genre. They’ve taken something that has almost become a trope and reinvigorated it. The addition of Braswell’s vocals on APTBS’s recordings has had the same effect that Trent Reznor’s inclusion of his wife Mariqueen Maandig’s vocals on NIN recordings has. It has made them more accessible, in an organic sense, while adding just enough unfamiliarity to push them into new territory. This is to say nothing about her drumming, which fits the band’s rhythm designs perfectly.

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You and I will never know what Joy Division might have evolved into, regardless of when we discovered them, but thankfully we will get to hear their spiritual descendents, A Place To Bury Strangers, evolve and push the boundaries of rock music into new territories. They’re doing this while reaching heights that their predecessors, Joy Division and others, mostly likely never could have reached. Pinned is the moment APTBS became more than just the sum of their gothic/noise rock genre’s history, as well as their own, and I for one am glad I’ve caught this dark wave.

Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.

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