Turning Lead into Gold with The High Confessions (Relapse)
By Mike Delano
An assured, almost conversational voice walks you through “Mistaken for Cops,” the first track on this five-song EP. It sounds like the gritty middle ground between the Strokes and Lou Reed, the voice lacking the youth of the former and the latent menace of the latter. There’s no shortage of menace in the song, though: The music behind the voice is like dark clouds forming, a wolf at the door. It has shades of a slow-mo version of Ministry or Big Black, which is no surprise considering the pedigree of members of the group (Ministry, Sonic Youth, Revolting Cocks, Minsk). Expectations then proceed to go out the window, as that four-minute nugget gives way to a 17-minute drone epic that alternately sounds like drifting in and out of consciousness in the gutter and drifting in and out of consciousness at an incantation, with only Steve Shelley’s drums keeping you from entirely phasing out. Layering vocals on top of the drone, as the band subsequently does on “The Listener” and “Dead Tenements,” only dilutes the impact. “Chlorine and Crystal,” the closer, finds the happy middle way between the conventional and the abstract, but with so many branching paths before them, only time will tell where The High Confessions go from here, if they settle on a single path at all.