Words: James Frostick
Self-described ‘aggro-jangle’ three piece Reality Instructors are on the cusp of unveiling their debut long-play record, Ritual Ignorant. The product of gambles, sacrifice and ‘at-all-costs’ dedication, Ritual Ignorant is a ferocious post-punk cry – a piercing and rebellious body of work that reverberates and echoes wildly in the face of bewildering social regression and encroaching silence.
It’s clear from the get-go that Ritual Ignorant from Reality Instructors is fuelled by a sense of urgency. You can hear it in the guitar riffs – jagged and penetrating. You can catch it in the up-tempo percussive rhythms. You can discern the urgency in the underlying springy bass notes. Most melodic post-punk typically retains an anxious and exigent quality, but the focused drive of Ritual Ignorant that catches the ear from track one is energised by a grim truth that colours the album with a singular motivative quality – a context that is as crucial to the album as the notes and words that comprise it.
Dan Pash – co-songwriter/vocalist behind Reality Instructors – has a genetic degenerative condition that is taking his hearing away at a rapid rate. This condition has spurred him to forsake the remainder of his hearing days in favour of one last spurt of creativity before opting for cochlear implants, which will be unable to convey the tonality and timbre of his guitar. Although I run the risk of hinging this piece too much on Dan’s incredibly unfortunate reality (which has been wonderfully examined by Pip Smith in depth here), I find it at least necessary to reveal the stakes at play. Rarely are creative types afforded the chance to go out on their own terms with a statement, and Dan’s commitment to blasting his eardrums with one last cacophonous squall is the epitome of dedication to the craft. It’s like a knight choosing to die on his feet, rather than asleep in the saddle.
The record itself comes at an auspicious time. The band’s namesake – Reality Instructors – is a reference to figures of authority who wield power to shape the world how they see fit, warping the realities of society and dictating how we live. In the period of time immediately preceding this review, Australia has re-elected a conservative party into government, while in America states are imposing laws removing women’s autonomy and control over their own bodies. It’s a grim state of affairs, and Dan and his bandmates Eve Lande (bass, vocals) and Nick Kennedy (drums) choose to face its ugliness rather than ignore it. On Ritual Ignorant the trio wage a war on two fronts – on one end they try reconcile with a world rapidly going to the dogs while simultaneously squeezing every ounce of spark and vitality out of their craft before the body fails them. Now I hope you understand why this album has a desperate urgency to it.
Ritual Ignorant is a record that rarely breaks pace for even a second – even its most slower moments are propelled by a tender terseness. But despite its feisty activeness, nothing feels rushed. Throughout the album Reality Instructors touch one a plethora of topics, including Dan’s own hearing loss (and the emotional rollercoaster that understandably comes with it), the isolating depression of being left with one’s own hyperactive thoughts, the fallacy of entertaining a future that becomes more unattainable as days go by, and growing doubt at the state of things. Although it all seems doom and gloom, there’s a current of freedom and an abandonment of fear that lifts the record out from the solemn depths. It’s as if the band has nothing left to lose, so they’re going hell for leather – unshackled by self-imposed restraints, free to be unfiltered, raw, themselves. To be this liberated would be an edifying experience – a nirvana that many creatives allow themselves to attain.
At the end of the day, Reality Instructors have crafted a record with the sort of depth and nuance that every musician hopes to achieve. It’s a record to be proud of, and even without the added weight of the band’s context it would remain so. Although for Dan, the loss of his hearing will be undoubtedly life altering, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person to be brought low by it. The band is not going gently into the silent night – they’re gnashing and rebelling all the way. Even if the guitar is laid to rest, this album proves that music will continue to live within, and therefore there’s no such thing as silence.
Listen to Ritual Ignorant here ahead of its proper release on Friday May 24 through Eternal Memo Records: