Spring is not the optimal time to listen to Irreal, the new album from Chicago post-punk heroes Disappears. Spring is a time of rebirth, when flowers bloom under the brightening sun and humans smile more. In the coming of spring, there's hope.
Irreal isn't totally hopeless, but it does feel a bit like spiraling down into a deep, dark hole built from sinister drumbeats, prickly guitars, squalls of noise and Brian Case's icy incantations on life as confusion and despair. "Aging with grace like the sun in your eyes / Living in a loop of different lives," Case sings in the flattest, grayest tone ever as "Another Thought" roils behind him at krautrock pace.
For many, Disappears aren't the ideal soundtrack to their lives. But for Case, it's a necessary outlet.
"There's something in there that's dark, I guess. The music is a way to kind of push those things out that you keep in to protect ... your life," he says. "I have two kids. I've got to be a positive person and I have to take care of people. Everyone in this band has responsibilities that go beyond (Disappears). I think as a human there are things that you have to put somewhere else and leave them there until it's time to deal with them. Luckily, we can kind of do that with this band. I can get out some of these existential crises or fears about the future in a positive way."
Irreal is Disappears' fifth full-length, and while the band has never been happy, there is an obvious arc across the discography. Early albums made extensive use of shoegazey bursts of feedback, but beginning with 2012's Pre Language, Disappears' sonic world has become an increasingly stark, sparse place.
Minimalism and repetition have always been part of the concept behind the band, Case says. But now those qualities have shifted out of press-kit quotes and into the actual songs.
"At first there really was no space in the music. It was really these dense hits of three minutes, four minutes at a time," Case says. "But as the music started to expand and become more open, something that was really important to us was to make sure we weren't filling every second with something, and that we were letting the ideas breathe. I think through time we've just become way better at that."
Practically speaking, that means Disappears has become quite skilled at recording a song and then stripping away superfluous sounds to highlight a particularly strong element.
"When you have a really small change after lots of repetition, it feels huge," Case says. "Those are the moments we're really trying to capture." ♦
Disappears • Fri, April 10, at 8 pm • $10/$12 day of • All-ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174