by Lewis Church
I have always admired the impulse to call your band something that will limit its ability to be discussed in polite conversation. Congrats is the fourth album by Canadian electronicists Holy Fuck, and it continues their pattern of creating circling and hypnotic rhythmic slabs of danceable onslaught. Much of it is impressively brutal, although possibly less than the name might suggest. Their sound is of electronica ground out largely on real instruments, rather than through studio editing or laptop trickery.
Whilst their earlier albums were often described as echoing the krautrock sound of Can and Neu!, they seem to here have veered more towards the very in-vogue sound of Suicide and Mission of Burma. At points it pushes further than you expect, becomes nastier and more atonal, grimmer and sharp. Equally though, some of the record loses its way by retreating into a sound that’s probably destined to soundtrack a rave scene on the next season of Girls.
Maybe that’s harsh. A lot of Congrats is great, particularly ‘Xed Eyes’, and the first single ‘Tom Tom’, tracks that are danceable and inventive. But then you get to ‘House of Glass’, a track impressively built around a fierce pulse of phased noise, but that ends up feeling overproduced by ending so abruptly. Its bang-on three-minute runtime feels like an unfortunate concession to streaming, radio play and the iPod shuffle. This is particularly frustrating because ‘Crapture’, the final track, covers much of the same ground (harsh sounds between the main melody line, underscored by distorted vocals), but its longer five-minute plus running time gives the listener, and the song’s ideas, time to breath in between the rattling main riff.
Holy Fuck have a deserved reputation as a fearsome live band, and it is absolutely true that the material on the album will sound great in a packed room or tent, as you’re buffeted by the tides of an audience swelling with each peak and beat. Perhaps that’s more the point. It probably isn’t intended to be listened to as an album. I have the suspicion that Congrats probably functions better as a primer for Holy Fuck’s upcoming shows and festival slots than as something to put on and play straight through. And for that, it does its job admirably, even if the home listener is left slightly fatigued by some repeated ideas and the odd filler track.
Congrats will be released on Innovative Leisure on May 27th, 2016.