This Ex-Breathers article was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
2015 has been a good year for Noise Rock. New albums from KEN mode, Metz and Blacklisters, as well as the superb debut by Girl Band, have brought an abrasive edge to contemporary Indie Rock, and now Floridian trio Ex-Breathers look to add their own brand of Punk noise to the mix with their latest effort, ‘Past Tense’.
Ex-Breathers take their cue from 80’s and 90’s Post-Hardcore, with the emphasis on ‘hardcore’. This is angry, intense Punk Rock which backs up its rage with lyrics about serious issues, most notably ‘Forced Binaries’, which according to a recent post on the band’s facebook page “is about … transphobia and the bullsh** societal norms that a lot of people can’t get past to treat other humans decently.”
“Forced binaries/ 0s and 1s/ Tried and true/ Black and blue/ Everything is two” shouts David Settle over a Minutemen-esque bass line. Elsewhere, on ‘Static Machines’, the band deals with derivative art and the need to be original: “kill the past, ’cause it casts such an ugly shade”. The lyrics manage to put their message across while still being ambiguous enough that the listener doesn’t feel lectured.
Like the best Post-Hardcore acts, Ex-Breathers create compositions of sonic complexity that still deliver the visceral pleasures of Hardcore. Most of ‘Past Tense’ goes at a blistering pace, with frenetic, minimalistic riffs that feel like someone repeatedly punching you in the back of the head. Almost none of the tracks feature a simple four beat, the band favouring unusual time signatures, like the 11/8 of ‘Car’ (featuring some sterling work by drummer Adam Berkowitz), that leave the listener disoriented, unable to find a firm foothold. Sometimes Ex-Breathers like to create complex, contrapuntal textures – in the opening of ‘Stand Still’ for instance – whereas in other places they are content to bludgeon your eardrums with monolithic power chord riffing, as on the Grunge-y ‘Static Machines’. Meanwhile, ‘Thin Lines’, with its slower tempo and sludgy chord progression, is a departure from the band’s typical style, and may point the way to a more expansive sound for future releases.
There are parts of ‘Past Tense’ that are strongly reminiscent of Fugazi (no surprise, as the band have been known to do sets entirely of Fugazi covers). This is most apparent in the more melodic closing riffs found on ‘Open Source’ and the album’s first single ‘Stand Still’, both of which use the mixolydian mode, a favourite of the D.C. punk legends. There is also a comparison to be made with seminal noise rockers The Jesus Lizard, particularly in the bass-led opening and dissonant Guitar figures of ‘Open Source’, and in Jack Vermillion’s David Yow-like howl on opener ‘Blank‘.
On ‘Past Tense’, Ex-Breathers have produced an album of intelligent rage that takes the best of their influences and fuses them into something completely contemporary. If this year has been anything to go by, the future is not only bright, but noisy.
‘Past Tense’ is out now via Exploding in Sound Records and Hex Records.