by Chris Familton
Dissonance and controlled aggression have always been hallmarks of rock n roll, it is just the context that has changed as the pop culture landscape has evolved. Over time the emergence of sub genres and sub sub genres has been an important factor in the continued relevance and progression of rock music. Post rock, noise rock, math rock, post punk – call it what you will but it has proven to have a long shelf life by virtue of its mutation and in New Zealand it has produced some seminal records from acts like Gordons, HDU, Die! Die! Die, Jakob and many more. The unassumingly named Sweater from Palmerston North are a new band who operate in the same realms as those mentioned and with their debut self-titled EP they show enormous potential as yet another jagged cog in the local music scene.
Across the EP’s seven tracks there is an unrelenting mood of claustrophobia and dread that manifests itself in clanging guitar chords, barked vocals and a rhythm section that knows the importance of their role in anchoring the music with precision and creativity. Cake is a particular highlight on the EP with its dark dancefloor-friendly beat providing the hook to the song in the same way that Gang of Four used the drum kit in the late 70s.
Though the band cite Die! Die! Die!, My Disco and Slint as influences there is also a clear line that can be drawn back to other New Zealand bands like Second Child and Love’s Ugly Children who, like Sweater, found a way to brilliantly combine noise and melody. In Sweater’s case most of those melodies come from the guitars rather than the vocals which are used judiciously and only when the songs require another angle or layer. That attention to composition and structure is one of the reasons Sweater are so successful with the songs on the EP. They haven’t crammed all their ideas into every song, each one has space and dimension to it even though most are under the three minute mark.
As an introduction to a band’s music Sweater is an impressive debut in a genre that is often accused of po-faced earnestness. There is a controlled energy, maturity and vitality that makes you want to see them live and curious as to how future releases will sound. That is the key to a debut release and Sweater have nailed it.
Sweater is out now and available as a free download on Bandcamp
this review was first published on Under The Radar