Soft Issues by Soft IssuesRelease date: April 26, 2019
Label: Opal Tapes
Having severely enjoyed the previous installment in Soft Issues’ nascent catalogue, I decided to once again strap myself in for another session of asphyxiation with a duo prodigally gifted at creating nightmarish electronics and uniquely arresting vocals. It is an abrasive and masochistic listening experience to say the least. I can safely say I haven’t heard anything this traumatising since The Body’s LP with The Haxan Cloak ‘I Shall Die Here’. This too feels like societal horror manifested in violence, cruelty and relentlessness. This is the music one hears deep within the void, so many fathoms removed from ourselves that only screams pierce the disassociation. The soundtrack of a thousand yard stare. This is not an album for the faint of heart, this is a horror album nihilistically tearing through the listener’s cerebrum, gently singing “getting to know you” as it nonchalantly removes the audience’s cranium and scrambles everything in sight using pain to create an emotive work of art that put on canvases would look something like an incarnadine tribute to Jackson Pollock.
‘Crawl Backwards’ screams the album open mauling the listener with absolutely no hesitation. For most, it will probably sound like a clashing of sensory overload and piercing noise but, I’d call it instant gratification. After all, I listen to music that matches my emotions, so when I need something like this, I feel the urgency of it…and I embrace it. I like how as an opening track, it really feels like a test for the audience; are you going to be able to handle this?
I feel like this is yet another excellent album I’ve heard recently where I feel that it’s easy to mistake its despair as apathy or nihilism. There’s only so much you can do with direct anger and outrage before you realise, no how matter how hard you try, no matter how much you work to tow the line, you’re the prisoner of something way bigger than yourself, call it fate or call it “the system” but, how else can one respond to governments, religions and a cosmos that all seemed to suggest that one day we would grow up from being good, well-behaved little children abused and malnourished into jolly, well-rounded members of society? Only to find out, it was just a way of controlling us, making us passive and subservient and docile. You go to work and you eat shit and you take the money and the taxman skims off a chunk and you pay the rent and then the tax man takes another chunk and then you take the slither left over and tide yourself over on shit food because anything good for you is more expensive while the NHS is butchered and privatised under the table. Everyone told that foreigners and drug addicts and homeless people and the disabled are to blame, that they’re what’s holding you back. And Notre Dame burns, a billion euros poured into the repair by people too wealthy to care about the poor, commerce invading culture, only where money is more than plentiful.
And England burns in a political Brexit hellfire, whilst proud Teresa May is a human effigy being sacrificed for the capitalist god of mammon. We’re all being sacrificed even if some people are too dazzled by their own bullshit to see their “house on fire”. The far right rises in opposition to all the progress that was made in the past few decades, the result of scared conglomerates like great dragons upon piles of gold challenged by rapid social changes brought forth by technology, you poked the bear. Everyone is being manipulated and they can’t see it’s all misdirection and the few people who can see that the shadow play on the walls of the cave are just an illusion, to sneak funds and billionaires and holdings and laws and legislation out the back, know full well that they are powerless to do anything, that the deck is rigged. So scream, so cry, so live maniacally and turn it all into a song because just like every bird in the trees, all we can do is hurl our voice into the world before we perish. You have a unique perspective, that is the most valuable thing in the world because no one else will ever have it.
What seems clear to me after listening to this album is that without some sort of grotesque sonic innovation, I cannot fathom Soft Issues ever being able to create something more punishing than this, while that should certainly be read by the band as a challenge, that I would gladly see them attempt to respond to, I feel like they should instead now take a path following in the footsteps of my other favourite void-dwellers, including Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and The Body and write an album that is still extremely abrasive but, also has more melody and more forgiving production. Not because this uniquely disturbing work of art is too much for me but, because it only shows one side of a highly talented pair of musicians. Here we have a black market genre, where I parasitically feast on the artists’ pain in exchange for money but, what I get is really more akin to prostitution, I get to feel like someone I don’t really know understands me and that I’m not alone in whatever it is that I feel. The result is that I feel a strong kinsmanship with people I don’t really know and that is great. In this particular corner of music, there is a disturbing dysphoria between, people who are releasing their suffering into the world as victims through razor sharp teeth and then there are people who are trying to assert some regressive sense of dominance. I’ve met The Body and they’re really fucking nice dudes, I’ve also met one half of this noisy duo and found said band member to be a very welcoming and friendly guy. It’s always the quiet ones. The ones who you never hear scream or lash out or lose their temper, that make the angriest music ‘cause righteous indignation bridles itself and churns into a storm.
When you wear out the muscle in your throat patiently fighting your own disdain and patience as life spits sulphur on you and you just keep trying to do the right thing where does all that negativity go? Here. Deep into the abyss. I hope that Soft Issues continue to stand against those who would hand over this unique gift that tortured souls possess, to connect straight to our inner wiring, there’s no place here for bullies and phoneys, when you want to make something that depends on extreme emotions, make sure you really feel something and that you’re not just too afraid to turn a magnifying glass on yourself because people will know. Soft Issues are the real deal.