Although it has been nearly two years since Spectres delivered their debut Dying LP, the Bristol-based foursome have been far from idle. Releasing a handful of non-album singles and the Dead remix collection, filming a series of increasingly provocative yet clever videos, touring as much as day-jobs will allow and courting controversy in plenty of situationist stunts has certainly kept the quartet away from between-long-player lethargy. Now, at last, appears the long-awaited second proper full-length set, Condition, to prove that Spectres can still deliver full-bodied works as well as shorter subversively-mapped detours.
Already yearning to stretch beyond standard guitar-drums-bass construction methods, the group were apparently tempted to delve into more electronic environs for Condition but instead more pluckily opted to push and pull their regular instrumentation over the edge. Whilst this doesn’t mean a total deracination of Spectres’ noise-rock roots, it does dig far deeper into their extant acknowledged influences and further extends the reach of their soundscape sculpting. Consequently, Condition is densely-packed with imaginative sonic details that don’t always sound like they were actually made with the tools in hand. Moreover, vocalist Joe Hatt probes into even murkier and more lateral lyrical terrain than before. The net effect is both cathartic and forbidding.
From the opening scene-setting of “The Beginning Of An End” (wherein Hatt intones “Pulling each other/Into another doomed future/The fallout never falls out very far/We’re all capable/Of being very different people”) it’s apparent that Spectres’ increasing maturity and self-liberation serves them well, as guitars reverberate like dying factory machines, bass lines are slung lower than those of The Birthday Party’s late Tracy Pew and drums pound out a funereal tattoo. After such a strung-out start the shorter scolding yet brooding “Rubber Plant” acts a bridging piece to another epic cut. Fully embracing far sicker and more twisted dissonance, the disorienting “Dissolve” welds Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth guitar scree to juddering yet slowed-down Jesus Lizard-like rhythms and blacker-than-black wordplay (“And now they’re digging holes in you/Modifying you”). If “Dissolve” doesn’t make you feel quite queasy enough, the album administers the true ear-bleeding brutality of the white-noise-funnelling “Necks”. In its wake, the comparative airiness of the almost-gauzy-in-places “A Fish Called Wanda” offers some relative respite for the close of the first vinyl side.
Flipping over to the second half though brings the dizzying heavy walloping of “Welcome The Flowers” to emphasise that Condition is a beast that does its best to throw-off fair-weather listeners. The reward for making it through the maelstrom is the dark magnificence of “Colour Me Out”, wherein Hatt and Adrian Dutt’s guitars invoke tolling church bells, unnerving radio static and vintage sci-fi effects to stretch the sprawling track across nearly nine-minutes of oppressive but mesmeric nocturnal prowling that imagines Slint’s Spiderland remixed being by Glenn Branca. Not letting the crafted confrontational urges go before the curtain comes down, the industrial-noise-meets-techno mechanical pulsing that powers the wordless “End Waltz” forms some bloodied jagged shapes as the penultimate piece of the jigsaw. Proceedings close with the satisfying aural churn of “Coping Mechanism”, with My Bloody Valentine walls of fuzz clamped to a gnarled motorik undercarriage which wouldn’t sound out of place on a latter-day Moon Duo release.
With this writer having initially accidentally listened to a promo download of the album in the wrong running order before re-spinning it in the correct track arrangement, it’s clearly a skilfully sequenced statement that strongly holds its sizeable backbone moments in place with strategically-positioned sinewy segues. The expansively visceral Condition does arguably need to be swallowed whole to make sense of its engrossing immersive scope, although a half-time breather is perhaps advisable for those with more delicate dispositions.