You don’t expect subtlety from Luc Hess and Jona Nido, two of the deranged minds involved in Coilguns, and yet on Closet Disco Queen the diabolical duo have stepped back from the complex and explosive metal-meets hardcore deconstruction of modern music and opted for a post-hardcore sound that draws upon the likes of Sebadoh, Mogwai and Urusei Yaatsura to deliver an instrumental body-blow that replaces fearsome howls with swathes of melody whilst simultaneously retaining the impressive musicality that is at the core of everything these two musicians put their name to.
A seven track album delivered in just under forty minutes, this self-titled effort opens up with ‘Hey sunshine!’, a light-dappled workout that pitches reverb-drenched guitars against Luc’s propulsive beats. There’s a deftness of touch here that marks this work out as an entirely separate entity from Jona and Luc’s other activities, but darkness remains as the shimmering post-rock of ‘what’s your 20?’ drifts from the speakers, crafting a deeply unsettling ambience through the use of carefully controlled feedback and subtle synth washes. Like the soundtrack to some unseen film, the track is all ambience with no definable melody and yet its scaly talons sink deep into your dreams before a taut, staccato riff shreds the mood to pieces as ‘Caposhi’ kicks off. Utilising the Swans trick of taking a simple musical idea and then, through use of repetition and augmentation, building it into a thing of monstrous power, ‘Caposhi’ is a brutal and brilliant slab of art rock that hammers away at the senses with all the primal force of Iggy Pop. In contrast, ‘Catch you on the flip side’, which segues from ‘caposhi’, combines the ambient elements with Luc’s increasingly jazz-infused drumming to deliver something that is best described as Dillinger Escape Plan covering Miles Davis. Savagely original, this is the sound of musicians pushing every conceivable boundary and yet, remarkably, what emerges is music that is both accessible and memorable, an inconceivable result and yet an impossible conclusion to ignore if you spend any time at all in the company of this boldly provocative piece. As the track progresses, new elements of melody are introduced and by the time the listener arrives, shaken, at the far end, flaming riffs have been deployed with a furious energy that is quite irresistible, leaving fans of Jon’s work to consider the possibility that this may be his most impressively nuanced performance yet.
Returning to the Sebadoh vibe of the opening track, ‘The shag wag’ is a varied piece that shifts mood and tempo over the course of its five minute time, although Luc’s energetic and impressive performance always keeps Jona’s eclectic guitar work tethered to the taut pace, the duo even kicking into blistering Sonic Youth (think (‘goo) territory come the cong’s finale. Somewhat more unexpected is the brief, bluesy ‘IYD (In Your Dreams)’ which segues neatly into the Twin Peaks-influenced ‘Black Saber’. Taking its cues from that dark hinterland where Nick Cave and his bad seed slouch on street corners, cigarette dangling from their bottom lips as the smoke curls in the breeze, ‘black saber’ is a desolate piece of desert rock that shimmers with menace, the riffs only blazing into life some six minutes into the eleven minute epic. It’s a remarkable piece of work, a carefully plotted masterpiece that closes an album that highlights that relentlessly questioning spirit that lies at the heart of all great musicians.
I’ve been fortunate to cover a number of Jona’s musical endeavours and yet find myself continuously surprised by each new achievement. Coilguns are a relentless force of nature, a brutal and crude tool used to batter the listener into submission and they remain my go-to band when I’m in the mood to toss myself into a sonic whirlwind. In contrast Closet Disco Queen are a subtle, progressive experience that only occasionally bursts into action, but those rare occasions have all the more power for it. Closet Disco Queen is neither better nor worse than the awesome coilguns, it is an entirely different musical experience that underscores the versatility of Jona and Luc and it is a stunning effort. Intelligent, evocative and beautifully played and recorded, Closet Disco Queen is a bona fide masterpiece of underground rock and it will rank high amongst my albums of the year. Don’t miss out.