Much has happened over the course of the past three albums and this fourth release is no surprise to anyone following the band. Originally a variation from the Black Keys School of Simplification, Harpoonist Shawn Hall and Axe Murderer Matthew Rogers have upped the ante once again with this robust release. What was simple has become highly complex.
Their heavily sampled combination of ragged harp, processed vocals, angular Telecaster bursts atop staccato, foot-driven percussion has given way to what can only be called…an orchestra. Yet this is an irregular ensemble driven by an uncanny ability to begin with ear-catching musical hooks before layering them with all manner of digitized madness, sweetened by a giant chorus of guest vocalists.
Song after song sinks its teeth in deep as Hall’s exceptional voice becomes a more important component and Rogers’s electronic gifts transform each catchy idea into something much larger than the sum of its parts. Some of those parts include drummer John Raham (Be Good Tanyas) and keyboardist Geoff Hilhorst (The Deep Dark Woods) together with a cast of singers too vast to list here. The net result is an attention-getting collection of 13 original songs ranging from instantly hummable to downright other-worldly, given their production largesse.
There are irksome elements—such as the off-putting buzz of synth bass, muddy-sounding percussion, and oddly processed space burps. Yet these distractions pale before Apocalipstick’s accomplishments, signalling a giant step forward for a band bursting with enthusiasm, ripe with strong musical ideas, and overcome with a clear desire to blend their countless influences into a single, distinctive voice to call their own. I think they’ve done it.