Let Conduit's Depressing Shit Rock Scrub Out Your Insides
The New York quartet's debut 'Drowning World' is everything the stuff we call noise rock should be: namely, absolutely disgusting.
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My longest running crusade as a music fan isn't a particularly noble one, but it is one for which I harbor a great passion: more music should sound like shit. In the home-computing era, it's long been easy enough to make competent sounding recordings on a shoestring budget, but so much music is served best in its sloppiest form—its component parts burned to shit and spilling off the side of the plate.
This is something that the New York four-piece Conduit seem to implicitly understand, something I gathered from the first moments I stumbled upon them at a show a few weeks ago, as they scrawled oozy feedback and belligerent vocals in this nauseating swirl rendered all the more coruscating by the fact that the DIY PA set-up couldn't really distinguish all the signal they were sending through it. Their set was followed by another band with a mostly nude person wearing a giant baby head, whose only album is called Cum Inside Me Bro. The night felt like a celebration of all the disgusting sound I largely find missing from music—and especially from most of the music that gets saddled with the label "noise rock" by the industry powers that b. It was perfect, and Conduit was at the center of it.
Today, you too can experience a fraction of that magic, because Conduit have just released their debut full-length Drowning World, which is exactly the sort of spiritually broken and revoltingly recorded collection of sounds I'm always looking for. Composed of members current and former members of Twin Stumps, Pop. 1280, White Suns, and Squad Car (who, full disclosure, I once opened for and whose singer lives across the hall from me), the quartet carries a certain amount of New York shit-rock pedigree. But even moreso than any of these other projects, Drowning World seems focused on total obliteration.
Early on in the record after an intro of collaged noise and a sleepwalking jam called "Hypnagog," Conduit properly take off with a track, appropriately, called "End Times." In general, that track's indicative of the production approach, which makes all of the sharp edges even more jagged and dangerous; the cymbals kinda sound like they're being struck with kitchen knives; the vocals sound like someone's trying to cough up steel wool. It's upsetting, and overwhelming, and makes me want to kick over and industrial trash can—cause whatever chaos I can to add to the apocalypse that the title describes.
The one side effect of prioritizing the general sewer-funk of the production is that most of lyrics get swallowed up by the noise—save for a few anthemic couplets, like the one on "Reducer" that kinda sounds like "Crucify my king / Traumatize the unborn." But Conduit make it so that's not really a concern—despite the pure bludgeoning force of their music, they use noise in a way that's almost lyrical. It's not just static—though I certainly have been known to appreciate records that are—they use varying shades of atonality to paint a complicated darkness, twisting feedback and squelches and real-as-fuck riffing around one another in these terrifying and brilliant assemblages. It's like those late Rothkos, there's variation in the bleakness, but it's still just unrelenting.
It is the sort of record that will take a toll on your spirit, if you are the kind of listener for whom things like melody and regular rhythm are priorities. But I have previously made the case that the world is challenging, so you should challenge yourself. And in this time of degradation, environmental collapse, and digital overload, I can think of nothing better to turn yourself over to than this sort of snowblind, overwhelming noise. It might make the world seem easy by comparison, or at least it'll be an appropriate soundtrack for when everything's falling apart.