By now, you’ve no doubt read a number of reviews and articles on the re-emergence of Bark Psychosis. After roughly 10 years of obscurity and inactiveness, the first band to be referred to as “post-rock” has finally released a full-length of brand new material. Given the influence that Bark Psychosis has had on the world of music, it’s not a stretch to say that for some the release of ///Codename: DustSucker is a miracle on the level of a follow-up to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. That the band would even attempt to release a new collection of songs under the same revered name after a decade is quite audacious. That ///Codename: DustSucker is an effortless triumph of musical ideas is even more noteworthy.
///Codename: DustSucker instantly puts Bark Psychosis’ sound on the map of 21st Century music. While retaining many of the elements of the band’s masterpiece Hex, such as slow to mid tempos, hushed vocals, effected guitars, and spacey moments in the music, ///Codename: DustSucker finds Bark Psychosis also twiddling with light electronic flourishes. Basically, it sounds as if the band simply picked up where Hex left off, only pausing to add some light touches to update their sound a tad. That being said, ///Codename: DustSucker succeeds, smartly building on the strengths Bark Psychosis while featuring a hint of sonic exploration and experimentation.
One of these strengths is Bark Psychosis’ ability to convey a sense of space and expanse with loosely-structured songs and a relatively minimalist approach. With jazzy drum playing provided by Talk Talk’s Lee Harris, and a host of guitar, keyboard, and horn accents, ///Codename: DustSucker sounds almost like an improvisational work. Yet, the CD took an incredible 5 years to create, demonstrating band leader and main songwriter Graham Sutton’s patience and eye for detail in the recording process. Every sound is savoured, and every moment is precisely calculated, rendering it remarkable that the songs sound so free and spontaneous. ///Codename: DustSucker opens with a little casio keyboard-sounding rendition of the “Charge!” battle cry, followed by the beginning guitar strains of “For What It’s Said to When It’s Read”. Immediately, the listener is lost in the sublime keyboard work, sparkling guitar parts, buried vocals, laid-back tempo, and repeated vocal lines. When taken together, the components of the song unite to form a hypnotic whole. The song builds to a masterful crescendo of sonic fury and noise, only to eventually fade into the distance. The slightly more up-tempo “The Black Meat” follows, with its aforementioned horn parts providing a jazz-like feel. The song, understated in its own way, completely turns on itself 2/3 of the way through, melding into an instrumental outro that is ultimately a completely different tune. “Miss Abuse”, a song that has received (from what I can tell) universal acclaim from fans and critics, is a foreboding and spellbinding dirge. Featuring a seemingly ad hoc bass line, brushed percussion, and heavily-effected brooding vocals by Sutton, the song develops into a seething monster of a track after a 3 1/2 minutes by incorporating dark electronics and a more consistent bass line. “400 Winters” has an altogether lighter feel, as the music floats upward into the sky and delicate female vocals take over (Bark Psychosis interestingly uses not only Sutton’s vocals, but also incorporate lead vocals from two different female vocals on a few of the songs, adding depth and variation to the CD). “Dr. Innocuous/Ketanoid”, an instrumental/experimental refrain, leads to “Burning in the City”, a song that features Sutton’s most upfront vocals, gloriously repetitive acoustic guitar lines, and keyboard accents. The melody of the actual song is catchy enough to sing along to, but the band’s approach to recording music is far too creative and unconventional to be played on Top 40 radio. The suffocating and dark side of the band returns on “INQB8TR”, as eerie buried vocals moan under layers of muted guitars, keys and drums. “Shapeshifting”, perhaps the most fleshed-out song on ///Codename: DustSucker, features prominent female vocals, an almost campy acoustic drum beat, an ever-building base of ethereal instruments, and an arbitrary guitar solo that perfectly matches the emotion of the song’s climax. Finally, the CD ends on the largely ambient “Rose”, as the peaceful sounds of subtle drones lull the listener.
Simply stated, when I first heard ///Codename: DustSucker, all I could say was, “this is the sound of a band who KNOWS how to play music”. And indeed, Bark Psychosis come across as quite the musical geniuses with their musical contribution. With deceptively well-written songs (deceptive in that most of the time they feel improvisational), expert use of experimental sounds, excellent performances (especially from Harris on drums and the various guitar and keyboard players), and a healthy dose of understatement and patience, ///Codename: DustSucker heralds Bark Psychosis’ triumphant return to the world of music. “Post-rock” has never sounded so good.