1994: Disco Inferno - D.I. Go Pop

Disco Inferno are the alpha and omega of post-rock incarnate. This may come as a surprise to those weaned on the vanilla palette of your average Explosions in the Sky album, but it’s an unavoidable conclusion. A clearer view is held in light of this kernel of the original definition, cemented by famed critic Simon Reynolds: “using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes.” Shockingly unknown in their time and unheralded in ours, the band deserves far more visibility than history has afforded. My aim is to resuscitate interest in what’s arguably the pinnacle (and inarguably a major touchstone) of modern experimental rock.

D.I. Go Pop is the band’s second LP, issued after a string of increasingly brilliant singles and EPs saw them scaling the humble roots of second string post-punk to the heights of ecstatic invention. Although the smugly ironic title begs otherwise, it’s not a straight reaction against pop forms. Instead of rebelling against or directly subverting pop tropes, this music worked to actively reconstruct the form itself, at least as it was then known. These 33 groundbreaking minutes are the result of a scenario I can only hope went something like this: Singer Ian Crause and company spend an acid-fueled weekend battering their way through a record shop, emerging into sobriety amidst a landscape of molten vinyl, teeming with magnetic tape and jagged CD shards. Realizing the futility of attempting to rebuild or replace the stacks of broken eras and genres, they attempt to assemble something completely alien: something so new and perverse that — instead of prison — they’re rewarded with recording contracts, ample studio time, and one of those gigantic checks given out after golf tournaments. They’d break the mold, change the world, reverse the narcotic slide into sludgy nu-metal and rehashed Britpop, and bask in the light of a devoted fanbase they so urgently deserve. Unfortunately, the music business isn’t known for its reinforcement of ingenuity or its forgiving nature in the face of non-existent sales.

Yet the work survives even if Disco Inferno did not. This batch of tunes was far ahead of its time in the use of sampling, presaging everything from the cut-and-paste electronica of Matmos to Animal Collective’s pop breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion. Fusing non-music samples like the staccato camera shutters and pinball sirens of “Starbound: All Burnt Out and Nowhere to Go” to a warped and brittle children’s choir, the band builds a rhythm floor over which the stream-of-consciousness lyrics and languid Durutti Column-esque guitar lines dance. This peculiar melange bubbles up all over the album, increasingly unhinged, until a tipping point where the coiled mystery is unwound and a stray missive like “nobody wants to die, nobody wants to die…” spills out and hangs in the air unadorned. More often than not, the sonic apparitions actually work in service of the observable nature of a given track. Opener “In Sharkey Water” floats in a basin slowly filling from a leaky faucet, an air raid siren in “A Whole Wide World Ahead” vacillates between dread and bravery, and majestic closer “Footprints In Snow” is urged along by… the soft crush of footsteps in snow.

Occasionally swerving into harsher realms of dissonance, cuts like “A Crash At Every Speed” feel at first like each element is at war with one another, a stew full of clashing opposites. Suddenly it congeals, opening up to breathe, and a song is born. To virgin ears, the whole of this album can come across as such. Repeated listens help one ease willingly into the new territory, though that’s hardly a negative point. Remember that when natives first saw the towering sails of Europe’s exploratory ships approaching the coast of America, they simply couldn’t comprehend that they were seeing not mountains over the ocean, but the massive vessels of a culture about to turn their world upside down. The crucial difference is that unlike the conquistadors, Disco Inferno simply wanted to shine on us the light of a fundamentally strange hue, a new context in which to enjoy pop music forms. This won’t decimate society and crush your religion. It will tweak your eardrums, and may just plant a knowing grin on your face.

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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