Based in Chicago, Disappears have been churning out LPs on Kranky with a frequency that’s almost become yearly tradition. Their fifth studio album, Irreal, sees the band sounding out their art-rock and post-punk from the bottom of a deep well. Dry throats and glazing eyes, uncertain interludes and unexpected trips into momentum – Disappears find themselves stumbling and swaying in circles, though there’s no sense of drunkenness. It’s very easy to lose oneself in such a humid record, however as listeners we’re left sitting on the band’s shoulders and each moment of their imbalance is tangible, every unsteady jerk forcing us to be painfully aware of our surroundings. Still, the mind begins to wander, and in our mind we see Disappears on this forsaken journey: Swans without a driver and some wheels missing to boot. Disappears are more frame and chassis than fully-fledged vehicle, their engine a distant, detached self-awareness and, unlike Swans, knowledge of where they’re going to end up.
It’s this self-awareness that sets Disappears apart from plenty of other shoegazers. They’re awake the entire time – the glazed eyes are those of travellers, rather than revellers, and each groggy step forwards carries a weight of determination along with. Brian Case spends a large part of Irreal wailing into (and out from) the void, forming cacophonous echoes that resonate and rebound off underground stonework on “Mist Rites” or assuredly revealing, “Future’s just death,” during the title track. The guitars wail too, sometimes. Other times it’s just the reverb, or lack thereof; Disappears don’t drown their music in it, opting to push their sound through waterfalls of reverb between vacuous caverns instead. Disorientation becomes a regular feeling as the ears unlearn how to deal with the swelling of sound, and each pulsation cleanses any brief feeling of respite. They’re tempered and disciplined, and they’d rather drag us along than leave us lost down there.
“Anything can happen,” Case repeatedly suggests on album opener “Integration”, often enough to instil a sense of apprehensiveness in us. Repetition is an underlying theme on the record as Disappears propagate the same rhythms, numb and necessary like the worst commute. Even as “Irreal” explodes into life at the cue of a yelp, the group constrict their music to their own rules and maintain ranks. Anything can happen, but what reason do we have to expect that they will? Things change, but what makes us so sure about when? In this way Disappears play with our grasp on reality, toying with repetition and rhythm in a way that leaves none for us to carry for ourselves. Their self-control becomes our loss of control. Irreal propels itself forward, barebones and skeletal – we are its panels, engine-less, and without it, an empty shell.
Irreal is available now on Kranky.