The In Out – Il Dito & Other Gestures

The In Out
Il Dito & Other Gestures

There’s a scene in “24 Hour Party People” where Ian Curtis (Sean Harris) is on-stage singing back-ups and dancing around to “Louie, Louie.” The point, besides trying to show that Curtis could be light as well as famously heavy, was that Joy Division knew enough to draw a line between themselves and what the Kinsgmen did. They weren’t just having a goof; without “Louie, Louie” we could have never gotten to “Transmission,” and they knew that. It’s part of what gave their music roots. It also a part of what makes their music continue to resonate; you can dance to it. The In Out have roots too; they have to because there’s no other way to account for the substance that their music carries with it. On their third full-length, Il Dito & Other Gestures, they continue with the steps taken between each of their previous albums while reigning in their overall sound to let textures tell the story as much as slashing feedback.
Il Dito is serious, heavy, sturdy, and self-important in the way that good albums need to be, and The In Out continue to make over-looked music that matters. This disc could just as easily have been made in 1978 and fallen through a wormhole as be what it is, some of the most relevant stuff being made right now. Its overall sound and effect seem to make few concessions toward sounding contemporary, but that’s also a large part of what will help keep them from sounding dated. Elements of The Fall and Joy Division continually poke out, but often it’s as much in the way that the band approaches matters as anything else, unflinching in their attitude and aggressive in their refusal to make matters simple. And they can draw the line back even further than Manchester, including a re-arrangement of Charlie Feathers’ “One Hand Loose” and building their songs around a pocket wide enough to swallow you whole. The interaction between the rhythm section – bassist Andy Abrahamson and drummer Eric Boomhower – is alternately malleable (“Sense & Withdraw,” “Sell You Phones”) and jarringly tense (“In Pursuit of You,” “Camouflage,” “The Turning”). They’re the foundation that helps elevate the songs and they provide the swing that keeps everything moving along. Vocalist Todd Nudelman is economic in how he spends his lyrics; there isn’t a wasted word on the disc. The way the songs are constructed, you can almost build a world around each line. It’s easy to get turned around by “the mirrored ceilings and the mirrored walls” that make-up the clubs and bars of “Camouflage” and “the world of desire” that “proved too much” in “Trapped Body.”
Stripped back from their previous disc, 2000’s A Living Memorial in Deustchland, they continue to leave their edges sharpened. Downplayed is much of that album’s overt sonic assault, and that’s fine; there’s more space and less competition between sounds. The band also trimmed down from a quartet to a trio between albums, and all three members receive co-writing credit on at least one song. While the massive attack of Deustchland may have been more instantly gratifying, Il Dito offers rewards that are subtler but longer lasting. It’s in the way that the floor tom and bass guitar not only lock-in together rhythmically on “The Turning” but in the way that their sounds at first circle and then blend together. It’s in the way that the scratchy guitars on “Camouflage” play off of the rich tones of the bass; the way the instruments chase the vocals on “Hedonism Haunts our Quality Time;” the way it takes them just one more beat than usual to resolve the turnaround in “Sense & Withdraw.” Their attention to details pays off consistently.
Their world is murky but never hopeless; your nerves may get fried out, but at least your hips will shake. For the 40-odd minutes that the disc spins you’re pulled in and you turn with it. It’s becoming increasingly rare that a band can cultivate a sound that can so thoroughly wrap you up. The jagged guitar lines might try and knock you around but the only people they’ll scare off are the faint of heart, and we don’t really need them around anyway, do we? Il Dito & Other Gestures is consistently engaging and confrontational in its refusal to let the listener become complacent. It draws a straight line back to its roots and then moves forward.