Review: Kristen - An Accident EP (Lado ABC, 2011)
Until not so long ago, I was one of the many to consider Polish music scene a burned-out wasteland only filled with third-grade, watered-down post-grunge and sung poetry talentless fucks with no vision (or knowledge) of music other than the most maisntream rock music imaginable. Thankfully, it turned out, I was very wrong and gradually I started discovering bands so out of the ordinary and so looking forward it made my head spin. Among many discoveries was a Szczecin noise rock outfit Kristen which exists since 1997 - 15 years of existnce makes them veterans of the scene, doesn’t it?
This review is of a four-track EP I acquired in physical form after their free concert in a small art gallery. It was recorded in December 2010 and released at some point in 2011 by probably the most forward-thinking Polish label (next only to Sangoplasmo Records, maybe) Lado ABC, who also released Kristen’s latest full-length, Western Lands The first three tracks on An Accident follow a similar formula. The initially bucolic and slow post-rock (as in: early, 90’s post-rock, but almost pop in their melodic happiness) melodies are gradually strangled by walls of improvised guitar noise, which can be placed somewhere between Keiji Haino’s brutal workouts and Thurston Moore’s solo work. For example, in the opening title track, the calm baritone guitar line is chopped and slashed by a series of abstract drum breakdowns and feedbacking, droning guitar. The following “The Grid” and “The Mist” build up the tension by layering walls of noise (often played in tremolo) on almost poppy framework of the song.
The whole tension is relieved, however, on the explosive closing track “Hold Me”. An amphetamine monster of a bassline is supported by maniacal, precise drumming and a plethora of noisy guitar effects, ranging from jangly, ear-shattering tremolos to walls of sustained guitar feedback noise, seeminlgy gaining their own will separately from the guitarist. This was even more powerful live, with me thrashing around right in front of the band while the other people in the gallery just kind of stood there semi-interested, bobbing their heads politely, as if embarassed to make any kind of movement that would differentiate themselves from the surrounding inanimate walls. But you know what? Fuck them. Kristen is awesome, and this EP is a document of what they can do live. I just can hope they record more tracks like “Hold Me” in the future.