“Sound is compressed; words rebel and hiss,” by TEXT
By T.J. Dempsey | Music Editor Published: 06/12/2013 8:00 am EST
The thing about music, or rather musicians, is that the end is rarely the end. For every breakup or hiatus, there is a potential plethora of side-projects, collaborations, reinventions and reunions waiting just around the corner. The abandonment of the familiar is almost always an unsettling prospect, and the loss of any truly great musical collective (be they a band or simply an artist and a producer) is something to mourn accordingly. There’s no keeping a real musician down, though, and one way or another, they’ll find new ways of expressing themselves to their fans, new ways of forging the connections that made us miss them in the first place.
Admittedly, music fans these days are particularly spoiled in beholding this process of death and rebirth. Chances are that everyone’s had that one band that they stumbled upon after the fact, only to fall in love with something that no longer tangibly exists. Thus prompted, we turn to the internet to assure us that those artists have moved on to lush farms upstate, where they can experiment with their sounds and chase rabbits all day long. I know for sure that, had I not fallen head-over-heels in love with the Swedish hard-core punk group Refused back in High School, I never would have been prompted to seek out and imbibe the efforts of their successor, TEXT.
Prior inclination or not, I really had no idea what to make of what I was hearing; there’s eclectic experimentation, and then their’s TEXT’s self-titled 2001 debut. Instinct would have us classify this new incarnation of Refused (indeed, only the lack of singer Dennis Lyxzen kept this from being a genuine reunion) as a similarly styled, albeit more impenetrable, hard-core outfit, but to do so would entirely miss the point of what that band actually represented. Refused were not content to adhere to strict genre limitations and conventions, opting to branch out their sound with moody ambient vignettes and the occasional techno breakdown. TEXT goes further by dropping any pretense of genre whatsoever; the lineup of tracks present here is enough to make Mr. Bungle seem rudimentary.
So the Swedes opted to throw listeners into the deep end on this one. I say bravo, as ‘TEXT’ continuously reveals itself to be a cavalcade of confounding delight. “Sound is compressed; words rebel and hiss” marks an early high (though “Requiem for Ernst-Hugo” is nothing if not attention grabbing), a deceptively soft suite of ska-tinged organs and choirs, with berserk explosions of jazz bursting through intermittently, like a rowdy drunk diving through a refreshment table. There’s a real sense, initially, that the group are prone to giving over to indulgent naval gazing ala Tub Ring or Say Anything’s Ludo (two acts I actually enjoy, for the record), but the resulting pileup of influences plays out much more organically and, yes, warmly than you’d expect. At over 10 minutes (and yet just over half as long as the longest track), “Sound is compressed…” is to Refused as a grownup is to a childhood photo: the two might be indistinguishable, but there’s just enough personality and poise to see the relation. And while Refused was always going to be the more storied and remembered of the two, I’ll always be grateful that that their breakup could at least allow for this obscure machine to make some headway.
Thomas Dempsey hails from Greenville County, South Carolina, where he has made a name for himself assembling and delivering sandwiches. A graduate of Presbyterian College with a duel major in Creative Writing and History and a minor in film, he’s achieved the technical status of professional writer by contributing to Examiner.com as a DVD critic. An aficionado of all media, Thomas harbors a particular affinity for visual storytelling and music.