This has been out for a while now, so if you’ve heard it already it wouldn’t surprise me if your first response was similar to mine – Souls She Said’s debut is not a record that you would’ve expected Joe Cardamone to make. So too bassist Don Devore, but particularly Cardamone; though it was always probable that there would be more to him than his tongue-in-cheek, raised-in-shack-on-the-edge-of-town persona gave away. You can’t spend your entire life drenched in spit and abuse. But even so, there are few moments here, on As Templar Nites, when the proper sore boy of the ‘Line really does lay the flowers thick.
Like on ecstatic, addled opener ‘Sunken City’ which, buoyed up on queasily heroic guitar lines and rib-shaking bass drops, reveals traces of acid and e as it falls through castles of pink summer cloud and half-lit, night-vision highlight reels. Its triumphant stumbling makes for as good an introduction to an album as you’ll hear all year and fixes your ears for the rest of the record, determining that it’d be probably be best if you tried to listen hard and listen careful for the next 20 minutes or so. Pleases me to say, you won’t get bored: every instrument kicks along layering and binding a patchwork quilt of rich-textured sound. There is so much hidden in the creases of this album – SSS tend to work themselves into situations where the most ear-tingling parts are hidden behind walls of colliding, collateral rhythm while Joe’s voice meanders between the two; the man who drank himself to death back to visit his favourite haunts. Either that or a time-drunk astronaut, lost in the space between frequencies, muttering and yelping like he knows no-one else is close enough to listen. Or perhaps just 'drank' and 'drunk'.
After ‘Sunken City’'s red-eyed haze clears, the rest of the album marches out more purposefully; the lurching ‘Floor on the Floor’ humming with twisted synths and doubled-up drums. When I’m brave/motivated enough to go to a pub and stand behind some decks, this is one of the first names on the team sheet, so to speak. Certainly ahead of anything Cardamone or Devore have produced before, unless I’ve got stormclouds to vent.
Whether its creators strived for it or not, the fragmented yet focused feel to the record could probably only have been the result of the levels of improvisation that were present in the studio during recording. The longest any track sticks around is three minutes and 23 seconds, but so much happens inside that time that it’s a surprise when the disc stops spinning in its bay and the clock totals the nine tracks up to 25 minutes. Without wanting to incense anyone by overlooking some obscure favourite band, I’d stick my neck out to say that I think SSS may just’ve created something original. It’s substantial, base-ape dance music, with flimsy, warped rock ‘n’ roll leanings; punk rock providing the sturdy, spiky foundation while bass funks, hi-hats shuffle and a throat whines sore within.
In contrast to this, The Icarus Line, though a fine band, have a strong tendency to reflect too directly their influences, (Stooges, Jesus Lizard, ethanol). Course, there are moments when SSS sound like other bands, and I can throw stones at what bands they are. Track three, ‘Riverbloat’... any guesses end up landing somewhere between Xerox Teens set opener ‘Only You’ and ‘Archangel’ by The Misfits, which is really a poor and unlikely effort. On ‘Tastefaker’ I’m definitely gonna throw my stones at Cedric Bixler, and let’s be honest it’s about time someone did. For the majority of As Templar Nites though, Cardamone and Devore’s perspective is less reflective and more kaleidoscopic. Vapour rattles off the cogs and filters sound transcendental; there is more to discover here than the sum of the parts. I know what SSS sound like, but even now, after my play count has run into the hundreds, I don’t know how they sound – the pieces are yet to fall tidily into place and only so often does the whole thing reach towards coherence.
This is music that leaves traces in three different dimensions; each part adding to the worth of the rest and building tenements of sound which hang in the air long after they are rendered inaudible to the human ear. Souls She Said are acerbic and sweet, stretched and contained, claustrophobic and spaced out. I’m gonna leave the rating for now, if anyone cares, with some space to breathe - cause I can’t wait for these songs to grow on me.
8Kev Kharas's Score