I remember catching White Suns in their infancy in late 2006 (if my memory serves me correctly), and while it was obvious that they had still yet to fully seize upon their many ideas, the young band nevertheless had a sense of invention and propulsion that had been lacking in other areas of the noise rock underground. While many bands falling under the dubious, misused, and rather broad “noise rock” classification have in recent years been content to sluggishly mine the Jesus Lizard/Brainbombs aesthetic with increasingly diminished expectations, White Suns always, even when grappling with the growing pains that all new bands feel, had something “off” about them. There were no obvious or palatable chords or riffs, just a plethora of after-effects perverted to the logic of their guitar-guitar-drums setup and intensely bizarre song and rhythmic structures that made for a sound both compellingly difficult and intriguingly obtuse.
It took until last year for the band to finally manage a “proper” full-length debut, that being the superb, criminally overlooked Waking In The Reservoir LP on Weasel Walter’s ugEXPLODE label, but the time spent honing their craft since the mid-2000s was certainly not misspent. The band had matured into a striking, unbreaking entity, the atonal eccentricities of their solidified identity reined in to a more distinct and commanding presence. With most bands content to begin a prolific and exhausting recording cache from the start without concern for ironing out their wrinkles, White Suns meticulously fine-tuned their ideas until all was as close to perfection as they could manage.
Thus, in a surprisingly quick turnaround for this trio, they have crafted a fine sophomore LP just a year after Reservoir with Sinews for Ben McOsker’s esteemed Load Records. And from the outset, their second long-player exists as a more immediate bit of misanthropic, id-driven slice of abrasive punk, with some of the notably off-kilter experiments of Reservoir (e.g., that album’s title piece) ever-so-slightly tempered in favor of pure ferocity and raw power.
On Sinews, White Suns inhibit the space where the opposing ends of their musical sympathies — the unstudied discontent of noise-rock and punk, and the abject physical precision of prog and jazz — fight and push heavily against one another until a forceful balance is crafted. In other words, there’s nothing that suggests one sonic approach is winning over the other on Sinews, which is an incredibly impressive feat for such a young band, let alone for any band trying to reconcile seemingly contradictory concerns. The music on Sinews oozes an untapped aggression befitting the most unhinged of the noise rock scene: the tribal bludgeon of Sword Heaven, the grinding ferocity of Burmese, the unstable hardcore of Black Dice’s early years.
Opener “Fire Sermon” encapsulates White Suns’ demanding approach optimally. Guitarists Kevin Barry and Rick Visser use their instruments with the intent of generating the most piercing feedback possible over the brunt of the track, the vociferous tones scheming an unnerving tension against Dana Matthiessen’s percussive false-starts. The masterful build and eventual release here proves to be a stunning asset for the band as applied elsewhere throughout the course of Sinews, and when four minutes into “Sermon” the song begins to, in the most exhilarating possible manner, recall “Ace Of Spades” as rendered by Discharge, White Suns’ plain admiration for the confrontation of classic rock and punk adds an extra notch of emphasis on the absolute abandon at the band’s core.
Elsewhere on the album, we have songs, like “Footprints Filled,” that filter a more traditional grindcore aesthetic through the band’s irregular procedure, with stop-start eruptions reveling against a droning churn of a rhythm. As the most immediate recording on Sinews, what it lacks in the sense of the startling invention spread elsewhere on the album is redeemed by its sheer force of will. By the second side, we have pieces like “Flesh Vault,” which subvert any sense of comfortable expectations elicited thus far. Here the Suns explicitly devolve into a haze of grotesquely bleak calm, with Barry’s plain-spoken vocals and clean-yet-clanging guitar proving comparatively pastoral yet distinctly unsettling over a static-encompassed haze of electronics and lackadaisical kick-drum thuds.
By the time closer “Oath” scurries into view — with its stamping destruction recalling the violence of Harry Pussy with the unconventional and off-kilter structural eccentricities of Alien Soundtracks-era Chrome — it’s evident that the Suns have transposed an acutely inspired sophomore full-length that, like its predecessor, arrives at its objectives with alarming vehemence. At just barely over 33 minutes, Sinews wastes no space in articulating its demanding and defiant disorder.