Fifth album for the rock band from Chicago, and they are still at it, blending the elements of shoe gaze and kraut rock in their alternative rock base. Irreal is an album that finds Disappears pushing their sonic identity to extremes, with the dark quality of the album remaining always present as does their search of finding the most intriguing sounds possible to add to the mixture.
The repetitive rhythmic patterns of the album set the foundations for the music, and with such a great rhythm section it is quite difficult to go wrong. The opening song sees the drums establishing the form that the track will take, with their playing giving a quite uneasy sense of rhythm. The same idea is further investigated in “I_O” with the whole structure of the track feeling like it has been reversed or something. It is not that the band does not use steady paces, but the way they are implemented feels like they are playing backwards. That of course does not mean that the band cannot apply different vibe to their songs. The more explosive playing of the title track and the cooler vibe of “Halcyon Days” show the different modes that Disappears can operate in, extended even further with the kraut rock approach of “Mist Rites” and the more energetic “Another Thought.”
On top of that solid foundation, Disappears can add their more melodic phrases, with the more harmonious and at the same time eerie lines of “Nervous” being an example of that side of the band. On the other hand they are able to move between post-rock lines, in “Another Thought,” to almost Swans-ian playing in “Irreal.” But it is around all this that the band can throw in their more experimental approach, and that is when they really shine.
The guitar experimentation of the opening song, with the short bursts of sound is capable of replacing the need for more melodic ideas. On the other end of the spectrum, Disappears are quite capable of rhythmic experimentation, with the frantic setting they apply in “Halcyon Days.” But it is the ability of Disappears to extend their sonic pallet with the inclusion of effects that sets them on a different level. The array of effects that the band is implementing in the title track is quite staggering, ranging from extreme distortion to clever delay effects, with Disappears molding their sound and producing a more diverse and complete aspect of their sound. A similar approach is implemented in the closing track of the album, “Navigating The Void,” with the band this time around having a more loose and abstract approach than they did in the rest of the album, leading to a very majestic offering.
What is distilled from all of this is the ambiance that lies in the core of Disappears and it certainly is not a very pleasant one. The repetitive patterns and the abstract sound of the band give rise to the cold and dark atmosphere of Irreal. That vibe follows most of the songs in the album, but in a mutated form. “I_O” sees the band undertaking a more mechanized and industrialized approach, also enhanced by the distortion on the vocals giving an overall otherworldly effect to the track. The vocals themselves add more to the ambiance that the band is building, especially in the case of songs such as “Interpretation” with a ritualistic aura to them, and in “Another Thought” with a slight darkwave-like tone. In the short “OUD” the band takes on a more mysterious approach, while in “Halcyon Days” that sound becomes more expressive and open but at the same time remaining dark and enigmatic. And then you have moments such as the closing track of the album where the abstract approach dominates the soundscapes of the band and delivers some of their finest moments.
Irreal is a great trip through the twisted vision of Disappears, ranging from their dark and mysterious thoughts to their more abstract moments. Through the duration of the album the band makes sure that every second is kept intriguing and enticing with different approaches, from melodic lines to cool effects. And with their great performance they seal the deal.
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