3 out of 5
Produced by: Martin Ruffin
Though this is conceptually awesome, Bossk’s long kinda-sort-gestating debut album Audio Noir doesn’t feel like it quite makes it past that concept stage, resulting in an aural identity crisis related to its hype-stickered promise of being “post-everything.”
Audio Noir operates in a few different main modes: Mogwai-ish, crisp, post-rock instrumentals; Cavity-inspired sludge, with matching throat-shredding vocals; and a 70s tinged Sabbath stomp, filtered up through modern day hardcore sensibilities, a la Baroness (who are name-checked on that same hype sticker). Any one of these modes works pretty well, depending on your tastes. I’m not a Mogwai fan, so those moments – which here generally acts as intros or interludes – don’t do much for me, but they’re effective for what they are, but I am a Cavity and Baroness fan, and those bits are also pretty effective. However, while the production and mixing from Martin Ruffin does a lot to carry the low end with an appropriately Kurt Ballou-like rawness, the vocals – mostly prevalent for the Cavity sections – are reverbed way into the background, dimming the intensity of those stretches and making the group sound uncertain if they want to be identified with hardcore music at all. The most solid parts, then, are those where they’re riffing and rocking – the Baroness stuff – and that results in some absolutely smashing tracks.
Taken one at a time, excepting the hardcore wishy-washiness, Audio Noir is impressive. It’s heavy but crisp; intense but “pretty.” However, these are all rather distinct styles, and Bossk doesn’t do much to tie them together. So he album never quite gels, and where there are the attempts at hopping between 2 or 3 of these modes in a single song… it just feels like someone wanted all of these cakes and ate them together, instead of coming up with one recipe that successfully combines all flavors.
Audio Noir does go out on a good note, though, with ‘The Reverie II:’ this is an epic that more gracefully coasts between its styles, across a patient 8+ minutes, showing that this is a theme that could be properly iterated on, given a bit more – to somewhat bring back that cake metaphor – cooking time.