There must be something in the water in Austin, Texas. Female three-piece Suspirians are here to dispel the theory that the lone star state is all about ranches, cook outs, and good ol’ style Southern rock and boogie. Rather, the band appear to be oblivious to their surroundings, instead swimming in the same murky, future fearing waters as the cream of the early 1980s post punk crop.
Following their 2014 self-titled debut, and having slimmed down from a four-piece along the way, Suspirians’ new streamlined 2017 model consists of Marissa Pool (guitar/vocals), Stephanie Demopulos (bass/keyboards), and Lisa Cameron (drums). In the interim between releases, the band has pretty much torn up their own rule book for latest album Ti Bon Ange. The relative clarity of the debut has been replaced by a foreboding insularity only previously hinted at. The leap has produced spectacular results, suggesting that their personality has come to fruition at only the second time of asking.
If seven tracks across forty minutes seems daunting, then rest assured it’s not a taxing experience: there is no fat on the bone here, what you get are several random sized chunks torn from the same slab of steak. The lengthier songs don’t outstay their welcome, and the shorter ones serve to offer brief respite. Although a cohesive body of work, reference points are varied: from Hawkwind to Joy Division, via the impenetrable sonics of My Bloody Valentine – all give a clue to what Suspirians are striving for with Ti Bon Ange.
Opener “Fortune Spider” sets their stall out early. A sour and haunting platform is laid out for Marissa to employ probably the clearest vocal delivery of the album, a luring effect that reaps dividends later on. Next track, “Nocturne”, is the most accessible thing here, it’s the come on that invites you to the couch before ravishing you with the epic “Moonwave.” Coming on like a dour, modern era Fall wrestling with Savages, this is real space age stuff. The swirl of echoing vocals and fuzz plant you back firmly in the ’80s, with just enough of a whiff of the ’90s grunge scene to keep the package edgy.
The aptly titled “Black Hole” is the point at which the album turns. No longer spectating, you are now dragged onto the playing field, dizzy, as Stephanie and Lisa create the storm within which the melee of guitars and whipping, unsettling vocals are thrown around. It’s pure unsettling joy, which doesn’t let up with following track “Clean Evil” (don’t let the great titles pass you by). Guitars escape further still from the taut hypnotic rhythmic template now established. Indeed, “Clean Evil”’s wonderfully wiry six string collages bring to mind the free-form scrawl of the Velvet Underground’s “European Son”, with vocals dissipating further into almost incomprehensible and barely legible yowls.
After the assault of the previous three tracks, “Scarlett Sleeps”, in contrast, is all sunny and haze inducing, a chance to catch your breath and unbutton your coat. Initially, anyway, because just as you’re relaxing the song turns on a dime, and twists itself into an uneasy drama that you will not want to close your eyes on. What started innocently ends in a relentless, jarring fashion.
The closing track, “Divine Spark”, is the final spiteful kiss. Its thirty-six screeching seconds prove that the album is no fluke, they’ve cut the rope from the lifeboat and let you drift away from safety. It’s an almost flippant way to bring proceedings to an end, but damn if it doesn’t make you want to shake yourself, have five minutes’ break, and start it over. After the rather more unfocused debut Ti Bon Ange is a bold leap forward that effortlessly places Suspirians in a class of their own.
Ti Bon Ange is released on June 9th.