Some bands keep their cards close to their chest. Revelling in restraint, they cultivate tension to make a release more impactful. Then there’s Party Dozen. The noise punk duo’s convulsion of rhythmic industrial art flips everything on its head in overwhelming you with everything all at once. Crafting a cathartic vortex of animalistic energy, their sophomore LP Pray For Party Dozen pushes deeper into abrasive territory with an infectiously crazed confidence.
Friends for 10 years, Kirsty Tickle and Jonathan Boulet birthed their experimental, improv-based noise project whilst living in Berlin. A means by which to extend themselves beyond their creatively comfortable indie circle, the multi-instrumentalists were surprised to find the following their 2017 debut LP, The Living Man earned them. With Tickle’s processed saxophone and Boulet’s penchant for breakneck drumming set amongst sweeping synths of frenetic doom, the pair gained notoriety for their improvisational and energetic live performances. Amassing a cult following in the process, it feels only natural that their latest album be based on said concept.
Acting as a litmus test for the listener, album opener “World Affair” will make or break the record for most. If you surrender to the frenzied mess of erratic instrumentation, there’s a serious venom to be appreciated among the squall of sax and drums. The only subtlety lies in the use of feedback, made to mimic a monstrosity stalking its prey before an undulating bass synth announces its attack. Isolated flute licks allow transient respites until you’re hurled into the whirlpool once more.
Retaining the element of dread embodied on the opener, “The Great Ape” pushes further into prog. The drums effuse a death march, a possible allusion to entering Party Dozen’s cult. Wailing sax adds a theatricality before tempered breaks draw out a confrontation with your worst nightmare. There’s another ritualistic sensibility to the rolling drums of “Play The Truth”. The longest track on the record is a slow burner that endlessly builds through a single bass note. Calamitous fills and feedback pervade the entire song as chords progressively gain clarity. Whilst overwhelmingly loaded with sensory stimuli, the final phase fails to leave any one contributor to the arrangement out of ear shot.
Party Dozen’s self-titled single paves the way for the duo’s indulgence in danceability. Perfectly placed for a rave, its assertive, fast-paced electro punk uses the synth as its talisman, its frequency denoting when the rest of the arrangement ramps up. The transition into “Auto Loser” sees things move out of the warehouse and into a house party. A VCO-sounding synth loop made moving by Tickle’s dystopian sax movements all exists within a tight, groovy pocket. Ascending movements help revitalise and reset the most accessible track on the album.
Lyrics are a rarity for Party Dozen, however, their presence isn’t without importance. “Gun Control” sees Tickle’s distorted gibberish syncopate with the drums and humanise the subsequent collision of screeching synth and thumping bass. “Scheisse Kunst” is another that uses Tickle’s vocals, hereby as a ghostly backdrop to the pounding sub bass loop. Forever in a state of perpetual build, it’s the only song that feels too predictable.
Whilst tacts change across the record, “PDD” has some math-rock movements of its own that make it a standout. Heavily mashed guitars pair with the most elegant and organic sax on the album before transitioning into a driving punk groove as The Mars Volta would. Made to match the intensity of a cult laying down the law, each break builds off the momentum of its predecessor. Whilst its initial misdirection is impressive, the meditative peace amid the chaos is a surprise.
Less metaphorical in the calm it exudes, “Dead Friends” is one of two tracks that are directly more downtempo. Anchored to the rest of the record with harshly phased organ chords, there’s an overarching glimmer to the sparser jazz drumming. Hallucinatory sax similarly feels serene, floating freely over the arrangement.
“Shit Faced” closes the album with another ambient experience. Delayed guitar chords and fragile sax meld for a sublime final séance. A quivering synth, whose feedback feels on the brink of breaking down at any moment, instils an instability to the composition. It means the conclusion feels connected by a bittersweet dissonance to everything that has come before it.
With their sophomore release, Party Dozen successfully double down on their volatile brand of noise-punk. Under the guise of a cult concept album, the duo exude confidence as they push harder, heavier and faster. Their ability to imbue emotions and catalyse feelings with overtly electronic compositions creates a vivid sensory experience that should compel newcomers to dip their toes into an otherwise abrasive genre.
Pray For Party Dozen is released Friday 22nd May via Grupo Records.