We knew it was coming, but we didn’t know when… and we were not prepared. Finally, after teasing us earlier this year with thirty seconds of tense, frenetic new music, Drill for Absentee have released their first new EP since 1999.
Drill for Absentee never quite reached the levels of acclaim of some of their contemporaries in the intellectual noise crowd like Shellac, Slint or Jesus Lizard, which never really made much sense to us. Michael Nace’s unmistakable delivery is, and has always been, immediately engrossing. In fact, it seems whether or not you spend much time trying to decode the layers of narrative, the band’s tightly wound prose and methodical punctuations have only become more urgent and relatable.
We got the teaser for “Hum” a few months back, which we infamously ignored on accident due to WordPress occasionally being an insurmountable piece of shit, but it really got our wheels spinning. It’s angsty, crunchy, stream of consciousness was just what we needed in that moment, and now that we’ve heard the full thing, we can honestly say it’s one of the most fulfilling songs we’ve heard all year. With the rising tide of anxiety and guesswork in modern life getting higher every day, it’s songs like “Hum” that remind us that we’re not completely insane for feeling so overwhelmed all of the time. It’s a subtle but extremely potent quality that goes beyond simple enjoyment – it’s medicine.
The goodness doesn’t stop there, of course. Each of Strands of a Lake, Vol. 1‘s four tracks offer something truly interesting, whether it’s dead-on, first-days-of-the-pandemic impressions on “The Bad Days of Blonde, Black Nails” or the dripping, poetic impressionism of “Skating.” Closing track “Placating the R’sinbow” haunts headphones with it’s gloriously unhinged, science fiction spin on belonging and addiction.
The whole thing is just so goddamn good. There have been some big returns from 1990’s heavyweights over the last couple of years, but few with such conviction and focus as this. When the EP is over, there are no questions lingering, no doubts about whether or not DFA is just seeing how people will respond. As it stands right now, Strands of a Lake, Vol. 1 is a high-water mark in the treacherous flash flood of math rock returns, and if you’re curious how they accomplished this, take the following hint from Nace himself:
“Our goal with this new music was not to reinvent our sound to fit the sensibilities of 2022, but reach back into the 1990s and channel the ideas that we had back then in order to bring it forward into the 21st century. We’ve always considered ourselves to be an unabashedly math rock and post-hardcore band, and we’re trying to evangelize the 90s sound that really established the sub-genre.”
Strands of a Lake, Vol. 1 is also the band’s first outing with drummer Ken Kuniyoshi, who replaced Bryan Sargent. The drums are definitely an important element within the band, effectively punctuating the bands narrative twists without being too flashy, and Kuniyoshi’s style fits neatly into the ethos of DFA, while still barely upping the intensity. Check out the thrilling cymbal work on “Skating.”
It’s also been recently alleged that we’ll be getting a second EP this year, which of course, has us about on the edge of our seat as we can get. Luckily, Vol. 1 here offers more than enough to chew on in the meantime. If you’re looking for some medicinal 90’s crunch, whether or not it came out today or twenty years ago, we couldn’t think of a better recommendation.
Welcome back, Drill for Absentee. Definitely check out their previous work on their Bandcamp page here: if you’re looking for a good place to start, we recommend the song “This Process will Make Chicago Wave its Little Hand” from their self-titled. They band doesn’t have a single bad track to their name, but this is probably where you can see all of DFA’s strengths coalesce the quickest. If you want you can buy us a coffee here but at the moment, we couldn’t care less. We love a good cuppa Joe any time, but right now, we’re listening to Strands of a Lake on repeat.