Album Review: The Psychotic Monks – ‘Private Meaning First’

FROM their inception in 2015, and 2017’s experimental self-produced debut, France’s The Psychotic Monks have gathered momentum in their propensity for increasingly genre-splicing noise rock. The group’s live performances gained renown for the uncompromising nature; many looking to the horizon to bask in their uniquely intense aura once again.

Newly signed to FatCat Records, their second album is a malevolent and intriguing industrial phenomenon, leaking palpable claustrophobia. This claustrophobic intensity pervades the album; a deliberate choice stemming from Psychotic Monks’ choice to record Private Meaning First in a cramped house situated in France’s remote countryside.

Opener “Pale Dream” sparks the encroaching claustrophobia, a slowly simmering prelude to “Isolation”’s head-spinning bludgeon. The former’s subtly creeping drone and tantalising, sparse piano unravel with the serpentine vocals, oozing suspense from every breath: “I could taste it / breathe it / deeper in my heart”.

The sinister, chugging, dervish-style instrumentation of “Confusion” and “Closure” are of the kind which invoke the bristling energy of live music. This organically throbbing, Girl Band-like thrash of guitars singes the ears, alongside vocals which eke command and charisma, and distortion doubling the psychosis. Similarly aggressive as the industrial guitars, the caustic vocals of “Coherent Appearance” are brutally affecting in their oath-like repetition.

The band revel in moments of cataclysmic release, just as emotion is wrung from the quieter, meditative parts of Private Meaning First. Herein, they took inspiration from Francis Bacon’s ideas on “accidents in the writing process”, manifesting in improvisational song structures, experimental textures, and silence. The spontaneity serves to embolden Psychotic Monks’ emotional connection.

Whether through the momentary quiet on “Coherent Appearance”, the titular epithets dying to be surreptitiously enveloped by the Psychotic Monks’ cacophonous machine again, or the heftier, headier silence on “A Self Claimed Regress”: it contrasts their immense sounds so nimbly that the silence is equally unnerving in it’s emptiness.

“Minor Division” exhibits the organically fluctuating structures suggested, the brutal instrumentation stretching into a lengthy, contemplative instrumental- delicate lead guitar meandering into unsettlingly intriguing sonic realms – creating a subdued, yet still strangling claustrophobia.

Alike to the album’s beginning, closer “Every Sight” starts with a quietened dread, through the drone’s ominous wisps and incrementally malevolent guitar. However, the almost 16-minute behemoth doesn’t once languish, symptomatic of the spontaneous structures the band excel in. These flow smoothly, moving laments- “My love, I won’t save you anymore”- giving way to fevered noise: fusillades of percussion, screeching guitars, rupturing bass below; all beset by the noxious screams of “Every Sight”.

An unrelenting album befitting the current claustrophobia, Private Meaning First exorcises such emotion without restraint. Rather than the year’s more harmonious albums, supposedly an antidote to the recent tumult in their contrasting positivity, this is surely the more suitable treatment: one to melt and shriek your woes away to instead. The record’s clamour and darkly hypnotic hug, rattles the listener many hours after its end.

Collaborating with French artist Clara Marguerat again; after the videographer soundtracked Closure with footage capturing the rawness of everyday life on the Paris Metro, the band share the video for “Isolation”, which you can watch below: a visual avant-garde apocalypse to equal the track’s feral miasma. Also see their KEXP performance, a taste of their “gut-wrenching” live persona.

Psychotic Monks’ Private Meaning First is out now on FatCat Records. Listen here, or buy the album here.

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