A Place to Bury Strangers at Oberlin
A Place to Bury Strangers wants to achieve “Total Sonic Annihilation.” This is also the name of an effects pedal used by frontman Oliver Ackermann that he built and designed himself.
The Brooklyn-based three-piece band that played an ear-shattering set at the ’Sco last Sunday has made its reputation on being the self-proclaimed “loudest band in New York City.” It is a dubious distinction, but quite an accomplishment considering how loud a band must be in order get heard in the over-saturated music scene of New York City.
The music isn’t anything you haven’t heard before; the feedback and distortion-drenched intensity of their sound instantly recalls the late ’80s and early ’90s British bands The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, whose noisy shoegaze pop is very much in style right now. The group doesn’t quite distinguish itself from its influences or peers so much as assume the labels that describe its music with conviction, and the band writes catchy pop songs — buried somewhere in the mix.
In “To Fix the Gash in Your Head,” Oliver Ackermann threatens, “I want to kick your teeth in” and “I’ll make you feel my sorrow.” But the menace is not in his monotone vocal delivery, which is rather detached, but in the scalding noise from the band that overwhelms his voice.
In performance, the band’s violent loudness sometimes overpowers the more nuanced melodic moments that can be heard on record, as with “Don’t Think Lover,” where Ackermann’s vocal melody, recalling Michael Stipe on early R.E.M., was hardly audible when submerged under all the fuzz and distortion generated by the band’s effects consoles.
It looked certain that the set was finished when, three quarters of the way through, in the flash of pulsing strobe lights, Ackermann held his abused and play-worn guitar by just its strings, throwing and twirling it around until they all snapped. The guitar was hurled to the ground; even the bridge unscrewed and fell off. Ackermann walked off stage only to return with another equally distressed looking guitar, plug it in and resume his performance of the song. The band continued for several more songs, after which everyone in the audience must have been glad for the ’Sco’s generous offering of earplugs to soften the impact of A Place to Bury Stranger’s “Total Sonic Annihilation.”