February 21, 2015

Review: Krill | A Distant Fist Unclenching

"The end is the beginning and then you go on." -- S.B.

Last year, in pretending to fail at reviewing its titanic EP Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears, we posited that every Krill record will fail because of the insurmountable distance between the ideal version of a thing and the actual rendering of the thing itself, and how that echoes the difference between the band's and audience's perceptions of its music. While we didn't wrap them up very neatly, and while that distance wasn't really the point of Steve, the ideas we posited were intended to synthesize in such a way that the concept of failure ceased to exist... well, at least for Boston bugcore heroes Krill, because, let's face it, shitty records get made every day.

But not by Krill. For the three-headed post-punk unit there is no failure, there is only, as last year's guiding Beckett quote suggested, trying and doing and trying and doing again. And now, with its third full-length, Krill try and do again (spectacularly). What choice does the True Artist (def. TK -- Ed.) have but to obey the imperative to create that itself makes her an artist, that self-same imperative that drives the artist to imprint thoughts and aspirations for others' sensual pleasure? Each successive imprint presents an increment, we can conveniently plot these on a Western-styled line, and think about change, and this past week this (straining) metaphorical train finally arrived at Krill's triumphant A Distant Fist Unclenching. Please let the other passengers off before boarding.

The nine-song set is not only the best the trio has made, but it is also the most conceptually transparent, to the point that it presents pilgrims a number of possibilities. Some may be tempted to view the song "Tiger" and its musings on the capriciousness of life as the germ of the record, particularly as the song is the source for Fist's title. Or maybe the capital-T, capital-B Truth and Beauty is revealed most clearly via the absurd, Duchamp-esque elevation of the mundane in album opener "Phantom." But, in fact, the core of the record sits right out in the open, in a little clearing at the end of "Mom," where fronter and bassist Jonah Furman sings the mission statement of the record, and his present way of thinking about a way forward in his restless examination of himself: "unclench your jaw and open your mouth to me, no more brutal songs, I wanna make something sweet, nothing to hide, you've seen every part of me."

In black and white that may read as an endorsement of a kind of hedonism, but we must not ignore the context of the entire Krill oeuvre. At bottom it's about an individual consciousness (which Mr. Furman explores here in the aforementioned "Phantom:" "what's the proper orientation of my self to my non-self?"). But not an undirected consciousness, and that distinction may be the finer point that Fist puts on the evolving Krillosophy; instead, "Mom," and by extension A Distant Fist Unclenching, espouses what we'd call a hedonic consciousness. So is the message of A Distant Fist Unclenching simply to lighten up? That is probably too reductive. Either way, the message may be ephemeral, or at least mutable: after all Fist is but an increment (assuming Krill is, indeed, forever, please god don't take this away from me), the imperative makes more increments inevitable, which for Krill means mapping better ways forward toward a comfortable detente with the self. Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away. We're all alright. We're all alright. Right?

Helpfully, Furman has already done the heavy lifting of decoding the new collection in recent press rounds. Here is Furman spoon-feeding the lamestream via Rolling Stone: "The fist unclenching is what happens after a tortured moment. It's how to move from that anxiety without being too naive or too cynical -– without being happy-go-lucky or saying, 'Fuck it, nothing matters.'" And here he is talking to Impose: "it's about stopping the anxiety of worrying about life. Relaxing, in a way. After a really intense time, what comes next? ...The idea that there is something that comes after that time [of sadness], if you just stick it out... [t]hat means something. You don’t reach happiness and that other stuff doesn’t go away. But there is something after."

While decoding Krill is An Important Thing To Do, we are loathe to lose sight of the fact that what we have here is an excellent rock record. A Distant Fist Unclenching is rife with exuberant, thoughtful performances like the incredible final quarter of "Phantom," which is all syncopated flares of guitar and bass and drum kit (not to diminish in any way the buzz-sawing sturm und drang that directly precedes it). The sturdy martial cadence of "Squirrels" is accented by percussive thuds on the downbeat in its first verse and again before Furman's crookedly walking bass line guides the song toward its spooky dissolution. "Torturer" bashes brightly in its chorus, while its verse pairs a mechanical beat with chugging bass and guitarist Aaron Ratoff hangs spare notes like fire overhead. Mr. Ratoff's finest sleight-of-hand on the record may be the quick elliptical melody he conjures in the verses of the aforementioned "Tiger," a tune the explodes in its final minute into a throbbing curtain of feedback-spangled, glorious, technicolor fuzz that we would honestly listen to for 20 minutes if Krill would only let us.

Indeed, one of the more electrifying aspects of A Distant Fist Unclenching is the dynamic shifts from airy, wandering passages into heavy, dense sections -- such as the heads-down, head-banging boogie of "Brain Problem" -- that put the band's full power on display. A Distant Fist Unclenching closes on a huge but quiet high, with the potent and poignant ballad "It Ends." It's quiet opening echoes the vibe of the final track of Steve. Ending an album that concerns itself with what happens after the end, with a song called "It Ends," neatly encapsulates the boundless appeal of Krill's collective smarts and wit. Furman sings "it ends the same way it begins," and it is A Distant Fist Unclenching's final reminder that there is always another train coming. Mind the gap.

A Distant Fist Unclenching was recorded by hitmaker Justin Pizzoferrato at Sonelab and was jointly released in the US by Exploding In Sound and Double Double Whammy Feb. 17 on vinyl and as a digital download. A limited edition of 150 LPs was pressed to clear vinyl, but those are long, long gone. Steak Club released A Distant Fist Unclenching as a co-release with Blood And Biscuits in the UK, and UK readers should click here to get with that. For its part, Krill leaves for the UK in mere hours, and fans on the left side of the Atlantic should be very careful not to miss the band. Stream A Distant Fist Unclenching via the Bandcamp embed below, and inspect the tour dates we grabbed at some point below that.

Krill: Bandcamp | Facebook

02/23 -- Manchester, UK -- Gulliver's
02/24 -- Leeds, UK -- Brudenell Social Club
02/25 -- London, UK -- Old Blue Last
02/27 -- Glasgow, UK -- Broadcast
02/28 -- Bristol, UK -- Start the Bus
03/01 -- Brighton, UK -- Green Door Store (w/ Alex G)
03/03 -- Paris, France -- Espace B
03/04 -- Antwerp, Belgium -- Trix Bar
03/05 -- Haarlem, Netherlands -- Patronaat
03/06 -- Zeewolde, Netherlands -- Where The Wild Things Are Festival
03/07 -- Berlin, Germany -- Bang Bang Club
03/13 -- Boston, MA -- Great Scott LP release (w/ Palehound, Lair & Cloud Becomes Your Hand)
03/14 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Silent Barn LP release (w/ LVL UP, & Cloud Becomes Your Hand)
03/15 -- Harrisonburg, VA -- Crayola House (w/ Ava Luna)
03/16 -- Raleigh, NC -- Neptune's (w/ Ava Luna)
03/17 -- Atlanta, GA -- The Cleaners (w/ Ava Luna & Warehouse)
03/18 -- New Orleans, LA -- Siberia (w/ Ava Luna & Native America)
03/19, etc. -- Austin, TX -- SXSW

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