Shortly into opener ‘Optimism as Survival’, supergroup-of-sorts Less Art make it clear that their debut album, ‘Strangled Light’, is a raw record in terms of production, instrumentation and lyricism. It deals with anguish on a personal and global level at the expense of any sense of ease and comfort.
Confronting friends and family members lost to suicide (‘Where my grandfather put a gun in his mouth, where some good friends I know are trying to get out, no matter how far we run, we all end up in the same position’), vocalist Mike Minnick (ex-Curl Up and Die) accepts his only way to stop following the same path is to let doubt pass and use ‘optimism as survival.’
This hurt-yet-defiant expression appears across these nine tracks, whether Minnick is confronting his self-worth (‘Wandering Ghost’), apathy from the public towards a political system that “doesn’t work” (‘Pessimism as Denial’) and the destructive nature of the human condition (‘What Is it In Man?’). His in-your-face performance of his poetic indictments is backed by the band’s highly melodic, yet coarse post-hardcore arrangements, recalling the stripped-to-basics nature of Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu, paired with the soundscape building that drummer and guitarist Riley and Ed Breckenridge have mastered in their day jobs playing for Thrice.
The biggest strength of ‘Strangled Light’ is the unflinching humanity with which it conducts itself. Less Art allow their contradictions to define their sound and flow between calm and chaotic, between assured and panicked and between minimal and cacophonous, often in the space of one song. But as much as the music varies and rawness prevails, the dignity and grace felt throughout is never shaken. This record is a struggle at times, but so is the human condition. And Less Art are very much in touch with what it is to be human.
‘Strangled Light’ by Less Art is out now on Gilead Media.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)