Listening to an instrumental outfit can sometimes seem off-putting. There’s a certain tedium that most fall to - a recurring loop of indistinguishable murmurs, buzzes, and kicks that drone on into oblivion. Really, it can get pretty damn boring if you’re absolutely restless and need some type of vocal interaction - or if you’re just not into musical circle jerks. Fortunately, though, instrumental avant-rock trio the Notekillers fails at the ennui and mundane on their first full-length, We’re Here to Help.
We’re Here to Help was over 30 years in the making. The dual-habituating Notekillers (they’re from Philadelphia and Brooklyn) thrashed it out with the superlative no-wave instigators in late ‘70s New York City, only officially dropping the self-released 7-inch, The Zipper. The record unknowingly culled major players as fans for the trio. Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore cited the Notekillers as a “big influence” for him and others in his evolving music scene in an interview with Mojo Magazine (the trio eventually made an archival release on Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label).
We're Here to Help, released on Prophase Music, is both an extension of and break away from The Zipper. Its erratic behavior is more developed, but still has that experimental free-spirit which helped to shape a generation and music genre. There's chaos and there's refinement, zeal and calm. We're Here to Help is a multi-layered and complex album made up of star-burst moments that fly every which way in bright spurts, but there's still a very distinct pattern. While fierce, wild arrangements are always present throughout this nearly 40-minute effort, not every song is a sonic freak-out like the album's definitive track, "Flamenco" - a raucous number where the guitars shred furiously to the point of a high-pitched fever and havoc is unleashed on the skins. "Eyelash" curls to the surf rock mystique that the Notekillers might be best known for, with rumbling guitars and rolling drums powering into a catchy, rhythmic melody, and if this track strikes your fancy, then face-melter "Papers" may have the angular riffs and walls of distortion that are here to help make your day. We're Here to Help proves that the stigma of instrumental rock is something to be defied. - Annamarya Scaccia
For those who decide whether to come or go based on the first forty seconds of an album, Restorations’ LP2 is practically tailor-made for snap judgments. After a chiming, anthemic guitar opening, the band already known for fist-raising jams lets all hell break loose with “D,” their most unrestrained opener yet. The drum kit-mauling, earth-shaking bass lines and ascendant guitar riffs can only be described as complete sensory overload, and make it clear that the following eleven songs are going to be fueled by pure viscera. If your preferences run towards structure over huge sound, this release may leave you cold; LP2’s predominant means of exploring the band’s wealth of ideas are stadium-sized instrumentation and endless waves of atmospherics, as well as a dose of ennui.
This is a murkier, more inward-looking Restorations than we’re used to. Everything that was there before, musically, is blown sky-high this time around. They’ve managed to pack ideas into every iota of the song list, aided by Jon Low’s miles-deep production; the density of the music itself is offset by an album-long meditation on place, belonging, and the ramifications of leaving the familiar behind, which makes the outsized sound that much more of an interesting direction. Juxtaposing the existential discomfort with more sophisticated, complex forays into Restorations’ sonic wheelhouse.
The spiraling guitars, one of the album’s specially prominent features, are everywhere, serving various purposes in each song. “Kind of Comfort”’s jittery glam rock aspirations accompany lyrics of searching and wanderlust. Even the more downbeat cuts (“In Perpetuity Through The Universe,” “New Old”) are propelled beyond their subject matter by the songs’ barely-concealed restless energy. At its more pensive moments, like the folk-inflected “Civil Inattention,” there is a restless undercurrent of texture and volatility that never quite lets up.
Album closer “Adventure Tortoise” is all monster buildup laced with extraterrestrial effects, kicking off into a sort of requiem for the band’s neighborhood. “I’d really like to stay to help this place,” growls Jon Loudon through his teeth, but the allure of letting it all go is too strong to resist. The longing for a place “where nobody knows your name” isn’t quite all-consuming enough to inspire real action, but it is definitely the new paradigm Loudon means.
It takes guts to pull off a release that feels ten minutes long but contains more emotional and musical texture than most records. Restorations cover a whole lot of ground on LP2, and for the most part, pull off their ambitions. A bit too sanguine for shoegaze, and maybe too heady for punk, Restorations’ second full-length album brings an intriguing palette of aspirations to their open road-ready sound, prepared to try anything and everything. - Alyssa Greenberg