Like Death From Above 1979 and Lightning Bolt before them, Belgian punk duo The Strzebonsky Noizescene are guitarless. Throughout most of their debut EP, hollering drummer Bert Jacobs plays his kit straight off the fuzzed-up scrunch of Stijn Preuveneers’ bass guitar, and nothing else. Influences aside, perhaps they like each other well enough not to bother with bandmates; perhaps they prefer the uncluttered guttural bounce of four fat strings and a drumkit.
On some of the tracks, it doesn’t make much difference. Often the Noizescene just play like a standard punk rock trio stretching out to cover a night when the guitarist never turned up. Stijn’s chorused tone is broad, fuzzy and high-toned enough to carry the songs alone – played straight and medium-paced, The Zetea Letters easily carries the buzzing irritation and sour-chew urgency of mainstream punk. Similarly, Keep On Dreaming and You Might Think You Know Me cover many of the usual punk sentiments and moves, fanning out across a variety of styles from the straight-ahead pound-away to the side-to-side flail and choppy one-word-at-a-time yelp.
Though their Death From Above 1979 influences hang heavy, sometimes the Noizescene’s boyish shout and growl recalls the flinching swagger of the guitarless, multi-bassed British trio Monkey Boy. On There Is No Plan B, a zigzagging wall of brown sound skates forwards in alternate rushes and swung jitters while Bert takes aim at a despondent quitter: “Holding your head, you’re as good as dead… / just stay in your heaven of misery.” What the Noizescene can also bring to the table is a little of the hot-space awareness of a band that sometimes remembers that it’s a rhythm section, and one which doesn’t have to hold the time down for anyone except themselves. Street-chanting punk vocals aside, Bert and Stijn are more outrightly musical than many of their peers and they sometimes allow themselves to spread out into more interesting sounds. When it’s not covering an abrasive stamp of riff, the bass occasionally swells up and deforms as if it’s been wrapped and smeared around a giant church bell.
In spite of this, the Noizescene need extra elements to really pick up the music, which becomes more interesting when they have something or someone to play against. In Cult Of Personality, their sparring partner’s the bristling ghost of Richard Nixon. The band plays against and around a defensive snippet of the beleaguered President facing a convention of newspaper editors just as Watergate was unzipping and unravelling him. “In all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service,” grits Tricky Dicky. “I welcome this kind of examination, people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.” Meanwhile, The Strzebonsky Noizescene work away noisily like a squad of intrusive builders, wobbling the scenery and spoiling the shot. Mockingly, they sing back at him – “Let me build you a cult of personality – / you will love me, nothing to doubt here… / The point is to listen and don’t ask why / all the worst is missing.”
While neither Bert nor Stijn own up to playing them, the addition of hooting, squirting cheap-synthesizer parts open up the Strzebonsky noise even further. On When The Curtain Falls their conventional slam-along of fuzz bass and chuffing drums is draped in minimal post-punk keyboard padding and then overtaken by a cheeky bombastic keyboard line which wraps around it like a brightly coloured cable round a pipe, while the band run junk mail snippets through a speech synthesizer. In the final track – The Strzebonsky Ravescene – the band go enthusiastically dance-punk, remixing themselves into a stew of driven chemical beats and a host of wasp-like analogue synths. For a band pushing at the form, it sounds like the way forward.
The Strzebonsky Noizescene: ‘I Think We’re On To Something’
The Strzebonsky Noizescene (self-released – no catalogue number or barcode)
Released: 4th February 2011
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