One of the most distinctive and purposeful guitarists around, Shannon Wright has a new album, In Film Sound, due out May 7. It’s every bit as dark and intense as you would hope for. Wright’s world-weary, exhausted vocals channel doom and despair over overtone-drenched, buzzing, roaring sheets of poisonous lead-grey guitar sonics. Millions of bands have tried in vain to capture the surreal menace that Sonic Youth immortalized on Daydream Nation but this album achieves it. Wright’s writing is a lot more succinct and lyrically focused than Moore, Ranaldo & Co.: the presence of a defiant, mud-splattered young PJ Harvey towers over many of these songs.
The opening track sets the stage with its layers of guitar, absolutely satanic, chromatic central hook and tricky rhythms. The Caustic Light reminds of Randi Russo with its hypnotic, vamping verse and overtone-drenched chorus. Tax the Patients works the political as personal, and vice versa, evilly trumpeting guitar buildling to a prickly, circular waltz theme. As it reaches fever pitch, Wright’s mantra is “try to accept this just a bit longer.” But do we have to?
Who’s Sorry Now sets what could be either keys or a guitar synth tune over echoing, dirgey drums, rising to an apprehensive swirl fueled by misty cymbal crashes. Bleed begins as a trance-inducing piano piece and takes on a Philip Glass-inspired creepiness, while Mire reminds of Thalia Zedek and her band Come, dirgy bludgeoning riffage lightened unexpectedly by what sounds like the woodwinds sestting on a mellotron.
“Burst into flames, pieces on the ground,” Wright murmurs as Captive to Nowhere begins, skeletally, then exploding in a blaze of distorted guitars. The best song on the album, Surely, They’ll Tear It Down brings back the Randi Russo edge, this time as a slow, towering art-rock anthem, stately organ juxtaposed against a smoldering guitar melody: “Such waste, such decay,” Wright snarls. It could be sarcastic: an anti-gentrification broadside? The album winds up with a dark harmonium theme playfully titled Mason & Hamlin (do they make harmoniums as well as pianos?). Wright is at the Mercury Lounge on June 7.