January 19th, 2018 | Album reviews

Past Where They Drain Them …

Los Angeles upstarts Penniback Records are part of a movement of young kids furthering the city’s punk ethos. Unabashedly new-school, Julian Montano and Luis Ho formed the label in 2014 after Burger Records gave them what they called their “first dose of DIY culture.” While much of Penniback’s roster—including Jurassic Shark and Sloppy Jane—are making waves playing bristly garage rock, Julian and Luis’s band Matter Room take things much more slowly. Past Where They Drain Them…, their self-produced/self-recorded debut, is full of claustrophobic noise and somber, sludgy tempos—less Thee Oh Sees, more Envy or City of Caterpillar. Like those Level Plane legends, Matter Room relish the negative space between extremes, building from near-silent low points to towering walls of sound before plummeting back down again, like on the instrumental one-two punch of “Intro” and “Ilbis.” This turns out to be a running theme—only four of the LP’s ten tracks feature vocals, with the band’s democratic jamming taking center stage. But when guitarist Ryden Mathieu does speak up, his pallid moans come caked in dirt and grime. He’s acting less as a singer and more just another piece of this band’s half-dead dirge. (The black robes he dons at shows really tie the picture together.) This bleak, funereal atmosphere gives Past Where They Drain Them… an exciting sense of displacement. It’s a shock of black-and-white in a field of vibrant color. Wherever this transmission came from, let’s hope more broadcasts are on the way.

—Zach Bilson