Less Art were being touted as a super group as soon as they announced themselves over a year ago. It gave them a buzzing Internet presence before a single hint of their sound was out. There was a lot on Less Art to produce a debut album that would meet these expectations.
With band members from three hugely distinctive bands in the US Hardcore scene, it’s very easy to dissect this album into the elements brought by Kowloon, Thrice, and Curl Up And Die. Yet they have created something that is entirely its own. They have taken the guitar sound of Kowloon Walled City – those blunt, angular chords and that immediately recognisable tone, and have applied them in new ways. Jon Howell’s guitars are not as tremendous as on Kowloon’s latest album Grievances, instead they play beautiful Emotive Hardcore riffs that intertwine with the deeply personal lyrics of Mike Minnick. This beautiful relationship between mathy, emotive guitar riffs and powerful vocals is ever-present throughout Strangled Light, yet one of the most touching moments comes at the end of the first track, Optimism As Survival, where Minnick’s haunting lyrics meander over looping riffs “I’m too curious to kill myself/Everything passes, even doubt/What I can’t control won’t keep me down/I use optimism as survival”. These crafted moments are why Less Art are so moving.
Like other Post Hardcore bands, the vocals are a hugely dominant part of the album. There is a slight La Dispute feeling from the hugely emotive and storytelling lyrics, and like La Dispute, Less Art do not solely rely on the lyrics to draw out all the sentiment. With such powerful and distinct guitars it is impressive that they have created such a balanced feeling within their sound. The first few tracks are fairly similar in overall pace and tone, and at first it felt that the band had stuck to a structure that worked for them. Yet this idea is completely put to rest as the album progresses. Tracks like Shapeshifter take a slower pace, playing with intertwining melodies and a drawn out but impassioned build up of energy. Likewise, the penultimate track, What Is It In Man? starkly descends from gentle guitar riffs into some of the heaviest parts of the album.
In this debut album, Less Art have the crafted sound of a band that has already hit their stride. They’ve taken some of the most beautiful elements from the other projects of their members and assembled them into something distinctly new. Post Hardcore seems to be the genre that has stuck to them, but it doesn’t seem to cover the broad scope of their sound. It’s a style often tagged onto bands without a distinct voice, yet Strangled Light has proven that Less Art has a vision.
Released July 28, 2017