Mental Wounds Not Healing by Uniform and The BodyRelease date: June 8, 2018
Label: Sacred Bones Records
“Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it”
David Foster Wallace
Uniform and The Body. Two pummelling duos. One is responsible for releasing the first industrial sludge pop record and the other helped to cleave minds with two head-splitting tracks in last year’s return to Twin Peaks. Both inform their traumatic sounds with bleak references to cinema and literature – the titles for their most recent releases were taken from Virginia Woolf’s suicide note and an Australian film of booze-fuelled carnage and paranoia – and this album is no exception. The work of Shirley Jackson (We Have Always Lived In The Castle), the recently departed Jack Ketchum (Dead River), and Elem Klimov (Come and See) help to inform the cultural landscape that this exists within.
The latter of these touchstones takes its name from a harrowing Russian WW2 film and it sounds like the slow trudge towards lost youth and unbridled despair that you might expect. Contaminated drums stomp through collapsing guitars and stuttering synths. This sounds like the dirt under your nails. Like phlegm on a mirror. Like blood that won’t clot. Where The Body’s previous record (on which Uniform’s Michael Berden also featured) was slow, atmospheric, and dejectedly grandiose, this album is the frenzied alter-ego. Digital punk rhythms nullified by a sheen of noise career along at speeds of snapped throats. It’s more immediate. More sinew-popping and ear snagging. A brash spark of a statement. If I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer (released just one month ago) is a deliberate, marauding, grind then Mental Wounds Not Healing is a ferocious and rabid assault. A duet of slathering jaws tearing at your jugular before vanishing through the sprayed red mist.
At times this sounds like an airplane’s engine giving out as the twin vocal assault of Chip King and Berden provide the shrieks and snarls of passengers refusing their fate over pumping programmed beats. ‘The Boy With Death In His Eyes’ is an industrial jackhammer of a track. Thick mangled fuzz worms through your pores like spilled oil into the eyes of baby seals. There’s definitely the feeling that, live, this could cause cardiac arrests.
Elsewhere there are acrid storm drones, fractured spoken samples, and, unexpectedly, heartfelt reserves forming in the clash between these two merchants of unease. Somewhere amidst the punishing snivel of Uniform and the sheer oppression of The Body lies a decaying core that contains just enough light to illuminate their tragedies with a sliver of hope. And it’s this unexpected culet that elevates this record above already stratospheric expectations.
This is perhaps most apparent on tracks like ‘In My Skin’ and ‘Empty Comforts’. The former is a deranged attempt by this foursome to conjure their own slanted take on melodic punk. Beneath the dense drone vistas and sturdy beats lies a sweeping melody that rattles frivolously out of the packed murk. It creeps closer to the surface, despite the howls of distortion, until it finally succumbs and taps out. The latter, however, hits with the force of broken techno. A 4/4 beat played by a drummer with Tourettes. Shards of static twist into emotive chords that wring a sense of longing from the collision. These moments are a genuine t(h)reat.
Another reference point that seems achingly clear is the work of Mark Fisher and his ideas around Hauntology and Capitalist Realism. Much like Pascal Savy’s recent record, also released a month ago, Mental Wounds Not Healing delves into ideas of lost futures, of the effects of Capital on mental health, the proliferation of depression and anxiety, and the interminable grind of our psyches by this pleasure-chasing society. Where Savy responded to this with dripping walls of washed sounds, The Body and Uniform have taken a more violent reaction. Caustically thrashing against it with shrieks and abrasive pounding. They’re not letting go without a fight and it’s a pleasure to join them. Even if it’s only for a frantic half hour.