Dogsbody (2023, True Panther) would be the debut album of Model/Actriz.
Donkey Show immediately assumes martial rhythms and utterly bludgeoned vocals, shivering at the sight of what is around it. This opening serves as a progenitor of suspense, of slow descent into titilliating titanium-tattered tits-up temper tempests. There’s an instantaneous conflict taking place within the listener’s head: how are they gonna have that much anxiety within this crater of noise-rock by painting the drums as the forefront of this noise instead of guitar? Welcome to this world of ever mystic grease, grease being spelled with two E’s and a C. If you say “greeasce”, I like your style.
Fuck that, here comes Mosquito, a bashing introduction to this undulating bachannal that encompasses the entire album with its mechanical lyrical protocols painted with vocals pleasantly and paradoxically organic. These drums aren’t like its predecessors, they move port and starboard further into this sex-slathered salamander’s slither like a series of twitching chins and eyeballs. These ain’t guitars, these are distant machineries kept a peeled ear without the privilege of hearing aids. I mean, sure, the vocals may be a little too towards the frontline in the production within the quieter bits, but when that frenzy of fuck sprints in, we’re immediately shown its place in the world. “With a body count higher than a mosquito” will likely rank among the best (and in my eyes, funniest) lyrics of either these first months or this year. This requested torture comes with the ambience of individual industries facing the utmost satisfying collapses.
What about Crossing Guard, with its opening palpitations and screeching, before breaking back down into the most “industrial” rhythm we’ve seen so far? Well, it’s got that sufficient dynamic, and especially the kind of talk that makes a bottom synonymous with an abyss, complete with just as notable an accessibility. This palate is more clean in order to get Haden’s point across. It appears to relish in its knowledge that the listener is anticipating an inevitable mechanical barrage. That barrage doesn’t come, instead substituted by a flourish. Would it qualify as a climax? Let Slate provide a negatory. Immediately, more tension and anticipation begins murking within the psychology of the instrument work itself. The feeling becomes infinitely more mutual. Hear that right channel, how that awakened guitar with the sound of a pathetic backstory crying out wherever it can, as if it’s the ambassador of internal dialogue. The rhythm doesn’t relent, instead it doubles down on itself as Haden only further builds this universe. Oh shit, here comes the fuzz. This bad batch triples down eventually, heaviness taking place as the spirits of long-lost thrillers possess the entire hubbub, populating it even in the aftermath, breaths heavy and thoughts obscured until only the mere relics of emotion remain. These two songs go so hand-in-hand that adding only one of the two to a playlist borders on insulting. Perhaps it’s a codependence in quality. With Crossing Guard comes the warning signs, with Slate comes the context.
Divers opens up like a series of echoes within a cave chamber the size of a runway. Haden manifests at his most vulnerable, before the drums bring about a surreal process in which this fictional cave chamber begins closing in, its walls inching closer to us, the explorer. Definitely isn’t the only tunnel we’ve explored in this album. The illusion of the size being a constant persists, “I seem to find it, but not within myself” permitting utter disorientation that rings throughout this damned cave. The ambience seeks the ability to overwhelm the rest of the world, but simply sticks to this chamber, all that it is familiar with, with all its infinite darkness and rugged terrains. The only sounds being whatever is left of its energy, its own documentation. Geodes seem to shimmer for a fraction of a fraction of a second, but the song is already over. It’s almost hungover, the song itself leaning against the walls of a raggedy shack in the midst of the woods that few are familiar with, sweat raining down and disgust ravaging all evidence of emotion.
Amaranth immediately resumes the panic (although with a touch more decency than profoundness), yanking the listener by the collar back into the hellfire. This same, borderline “pathetic” shiver and quiver within the lower notes of Haden oddly reminiscent of some other post-punk an ocean away. Regardless, these louder sections provide not enough loud. Provide that hurricane, let that noise come fully expressed and potentially peerless, not neutering itself like a newly borrowed guitar from the remnants of Daughters that comes off as having its hair washed and its nails clipped. As if formality is what fits best. There’s no terrible reason to let that shaggy fucko out of its cage and ready to maul, gnaw, tooth and claw. Matter of fact, let’s add a little more strength and muscle to all these other instruments so that they’re capable of punching above their weight. Is that really stupid to say? Eh, probably.
Immediately, there’s potential to make up for that suppressed shuffle via Pure Mode. There are no more sips taken in this rabble-rousing ricochet, this time is the time to chug. Hear Haden begin going fucking feral as crunch takes over, the cymbals drizzling kerosene all over this smoldering flame in order to evolve it into the desecration of an entire forest. Make the Amazon squeal. Thankfully, it does. Without question, the song could have persisted for another minute; and if it did, it would likely be one of the best of the year. It’s obvious just how much of a tradition it is within post-punk to have the vocal work border on spoken word, but perhaps there’ll be a time to cut back on the Woods and Stewart. I made the comparison, god damnit. I’ve read upon comparisons to Gilla Band’s Most Normal, but that one has more noise and less substance to latch onto at all. Fortunately, the noise there tends to be satisfying enough to suffice. Is there the opposite quandary here, where all the meat is present on these brittle old bones, save for the satisfaction within noise? Not quite, at least the noise comes when it needs to. Just because it’s dissonant doesn’t mean it lacks chemistry.
And especially with this particular flavour of suspense and unease supplied by Maria. The drums may seem unusually cleaner, or rather more obviously clean, but that is very much favourable in supplying a properly integrated clarity in the carnage courtesy of Radlauer. Haden’s performance here is among the weakest in the album, but it still finds elysium within the perpetually oncoming traffic pileup that is this much anticipation and impending mayhem. But that once again is cut short. Perhaps if the kick drum persisted in its ever pounding echoing behemoth steps and the final sector lasted 30 more seconds, then a sense of completion would come, although it would be a testament to the album’s stamina to complete so much to begin with. Thematically, it’s maintaining all the fucked-up incoming pain and release it needs to accomplish, the consistency invisible thanks to how airtight it is. But in terms of how it presents itself through the sound, moth holes have already formed.
That eccentric, buzzed fuzzball of ambience present in Sleepless, that mere memory of being an instrument at all, has the potential of greatness in itself. It’s all drowned in depression, physical and mental, not a cough or sneeze in sight. Instead, a collection of the dying wheezes of a generous amount of people. Maybe ‘tis that malaria. One thing that’s very present is that this ambience knows how to sing, better than Haden seems to. It’s not the craziest idea to focus on the sheer pain and obscurity that this electronica provides, and the guitar only further provides to this illusion of a distant memory. The drums keep at it, building and building as the song becomes drowned in not noise, but noise. Drowned within this species of noise, this faint clamouring of drum, whine of equally unkempt and lost-to-time guitar, and ambience overwhelming and brooding like the ghost of a mammoth complete with the wails of a mythos-laminated Haden, this species of noise that propels Sleepless into being the best damn song on the entire project.
An unexpected detour arrives within this album’s final breaths, Sun In. You can imagine this existing within any other hushed hall-of-a-music-video hullabaloo of any nameless contemporary-folk puppy-loving, uses-chopsticks-to-roast-two-marshmallows-over-a-campfire kinda yuppie who only needs a guitar and a mouth to attend a self-therapy. With the context of this album, however, such a song is refreshing instead. Finally, the album is given the experience of living instead of killing time in a steel dungeon. It borders on blissful, how the sun reflects off of the song’s singular eye. It’s a break much needed, and well-deserved, reaching out to a little slice of heaven using a good old graze of the fingertips, like turning off all the wacky machineries and occasional televised porn-a-palooza to finally limp on outside to where only Spring air and sun awaits you. It’s like the ending of Portal 2, except the entire game was GLaDOS shoving a turret up your damned derriere until she got bored, so she figured “May as well let you go” in an uncharacteristic mercy.
Now, there’s a difference between being undercooked and being raw. If you’re raw, you’ve got that unkempt and uncompromising emotional clock to the jaw that couldn’t give two fucks how long you’re unconscious for. If you’re undercooked, you didn’t have enough time to develop and mature into a product of quality, and didn’t allow yourself the time for ideas to develop into the best manifestations of themselves. Dogsbody seems to adore teetering this now-invented scale and virtually pirouetting all over the place from one area on the scale to another. It’s almost childlike, how it treats the scale like a seesaw. There’s good ideas and okay executions spilled all over the place, it’s like a moderately dull guillotine if you want to be more literal. It feels as if there’s always a threat of at least one of the instruments drowning away in hubris at every corner, every turn. It’s a relentless gamble, a dance-punk cathedral of sheer chance.
Where things take a backseat instead of potentially being compromised in lacking power is where the album finds itself at its most properly cemented, its most structurally sound in its composition, its production, its performances, whatnot. Divers, Sun In, and Sleepless are the ultimate reminders of that. The rest tends to not be overwhelmed in noise, but rather in its own follies. If you excuse me, I’m gonna go listen to A Promi- no, no. We’re not doing that comparison again. You’ve gotta love this album’s guts, especially how they are rearranged.
Trajectory of listens past the first: neutral.
Written 3/13/2022, 1:30 - 3:21 PM.