After some years in the wilderness, My Disco has returned with a punishing but gripping album in Severe. Finding the perfect balance between unsettling quiet and intimidating loudness, My Disco have created a monument to the power of minimalist, industrial rock. Severe takes shape as an ancient structure, creaking in the wind but seemingly ageless and permanent.
Since 2003 My Disco has always been an outfit that has tried to push the limits of doing something big by using less. Repetition, long periods of droning ambience, few lyrics – My Disco constructed two fiercely savage albums using this process and has done so again with the latest effort, Severe. This album marks a return for the band, the members of which had been separated by geography in the years between 2010’s Little Joy and 2015’s Severe. While both albums are distinctly My Disco, I find Severe to be a more intimidating effort – a machine constructed out of refuse, fueled by dark matter. In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Ben Andrews reflected on the albums ‘bare bones and skeletal nature’ but despite the excellent use of minimal musicianship, My Disco has again come forth with something that is unsettling, gripping and overall enthralling despite the limited noise palette.
I figured a good place to start for this review was to look back at 2010’s effort and note the apparent divergences and nuances that evolved during the period between releases. Of course, this album didn’t take five years to complete (My Disco toured Little Joy until 2012) but after a minimum of three years apart several new ideas must have formed. Severe is an album of darkly veiled menace, more unsettling than any metal, punk or noise rock that I have come across this year. It’s an album of aural jump-scares, a soundtrack for a psychological thriller-come-waking nightmare.
Severe shows My Disco enhancing its ability to orchestrate silences to complement noise. The quiet periods amplify the sound available, as if an unseen fourth member wields an instrument that produces silent movements. When there is sound in abundance, my head throbs with the bass pulse and the juddering percussion creates tightness in my chest. Vocal phrases merely echo throughout, emanating from behind walls and closed doors but also seemingly all around. The clang and the thrum and the sinister sounds and the silence merge to create an unyielding and stolid monument – Severe takes shape as an ancient structure, creaking in the wind but seemingly ageless and permanent.
2012’s Little Joy opened with more groove, though also with concise simplistic elements stripped back to the dim metallic bones. My Disco experimented with repetition heavily and also indulged in drawn out noise. They eschewed convention though overall the album was still accessible and, dare I say it, danceable. Tracks such as ‘Young’ exemplified the minimalist bounce My Disco had going at the time, but it never communicated the importance of silence as well as anything on Severe. There are no tracks like ‘Rivers’ on Severe, no discernible purchase against the intimidating pillar of blackness. There are no psych freak-outs or tribal rhythms, and the only indication of My Disco’s 2015 direction can be heard on ‘With Age’, where the pounding drums and throb was evident, but packed a livelier edge. Little Joy sounded more organic or earth-grown – conjuring images of wind chimes and air flow, where Severe channels suffocation and intimidation.
My Disco revels in breaking the quiet, cracking space apart and causing ripples in the air. I can readily admit that what My Disco has done on Severe is impressive, though a part of me is still debating which album I prefer from its catalogue. 2015 has seen some impressive albums from sonically similar outfits such as Cured Pink and Making, but I’d put Severe as the more impactful release from it’s industrial-noise-punk genre. Severe’s lead single ‘King Sound’ conjured an interesting mental image – one of the song being a declaration that My Disco’s sound is royal in nature, incomparable and unmatched in intensity – the apex predator in the sonic kingdom. I deem that declaration, intentional or not, to be accurate. Severe hits hard, and is an engaging addition to the My Disco mythos.