Algiers Bring Their Potently Original, Fearlessly Political, Gospel-Infused Postrock to Williamsburg
Algiers – the American band, not to be confused with the tuneless British Replacements wannabes – play no wave oldtime gospel music. If you feel like hanging another handle on their music- something the band would probably prefer you ddn’t do – you could also call it revolutionary postrock soul. Frontman Franklin James Fisher’s gritty, powerful, unselfconsciously plaintive voice soars over Ryan Mahan’s murky sunthesizer swirls and storms and Lee Tesche’s jagged slashes of guitar, combining for a bracing, refreshingly relevant, fearlessly politically-fueled surround-sound attack. Their debut album is streaming at Spotify. They’re currently on world tour, with a Brooklyn show on October 11 at 9 PM Rough Trade; general admission is $15.
The album’s opening track, Remains, immediately sets the stage, ominous synth buzzing low beneath Fisher’s impassioned indictment of “careless mistakes” and westernization as it rises to towering, cinematic proportions. Claudette has Fisher channeling vintage Levi Stubbs as the echoey, white noise-drenched sheets of sound disguise a classic Motown groove.
“Walk on down your ragged mile ’cause we won’t be so far behind,” Fisher warns over a staggered motorik bassline as And When You Fall gets underway, a savagely redemptive 99-percenter revenge anthem. Blood, with its low, moody gospel harmonies, is less optimistic: “Television coma, all my blood’s in vain, it’s gone too far to change,” Fisher laments.
Old Girl opens with a sample of a tolling bell a la Siouxsie’s Icons and follows a similarly menacing path: “The years pile on like cancer,” Fisher hollers, a fate millions of women around the world have to contend with. Irony Utility Pretext, with its blackly echoey ambience, is the most enigmatic track here, Fisher contemplating “Noise just to drown us out.” I’m Going Home builds out of pugilistic guitar slashes over a bass rumble to an antiwar tirp-hop anthem. Black Eunuch mashes up hip-hop, machinegunning funk guitar and unexpected flamenco touches into a creepily kinetic soundscape.
Games slowly morphs into a classic minor-key 60s noir soul groove. You wouldn’t expect to hear something so mutedly oldschool on this album: “I can’t keep up with this shit anymore,” Fisher broods, “It’s all just a game ‘cept for your license to kill.” The album’s most epic cut, In Parallax, works a slow, enigmatic field holler groove that segues into ominous atmopsherics. One of the most original and best albums of 2015 by a mile.