Doom is all around us. We’re well aware of that. We know it because we carry little electronic reminders in our pockets everywhere we go, and we’re probably looking at them every couple of minutes when there’s something else we should be focusing on. This is fine, this is normal, this is what we do now. Doom everywhere we go. Doom as a distraction.
‘Just Look At That Sky’, the second album from Chicago post-punk band Ganser, deals with this doom head-on. It’s perhaps a political record, but only as far as our lives are political. It’s not a call to arms, or a means to open anyone’s eyes. It’s much more inward-focused than that. It’s a nagging dread in the pit of your stomach; it’s an anxious, sick feeling as you watch the seams of everything you know split and know that there’s no ignoring it anymore.
Ganser draw largely from noisy 90s art-punk, with touchpoints such as Sonic Youth and Fugazi. In a stylistic move that recalls the latter, guitar (performed by Charlie Landsman) usually comes as either pointed stabs or a howling drone, while the driving force comes from Alicia Gaines’ bass. It’s rhythmically driven at all times
Brian Cundiff’s drums are tight and intense, and even vocals (from Gaines and Nadia Garofalo) tend to be measured in service to this rhythm over melody. This all makes Ganser’s music immediately striking and commanding, while nurturing an edge that keeps it wild and electrifying.
Lyrically they tend to keep a cool opacity, an abstractness that cloaks specifics and leaves feeling at the forefront. This crafts a certain sense of disorientation, intensifying the record’s panic attack feeling. ‘It’s so crowded / There’s too many to breathe / Air sucked from the room / But I can’t stand to leave,’ Garofalo sings on ‘Projector’. On ‘Told You So’: ‘My insides are out to get me / Inside out / I feel like I have eleven eyes / With nothing to see’. And ‘Bad Form’: ‘I can’t feel my limbs / But my stomach is turning’. Concrete ideas, like climate change and social media, are certainly present – looming, even – but what Ganser zero in on is how the presence of these ideas pervades our mental health, our sense of stability.
‘Just Look At That Sky’ doesn’t presume to offer solutions; it’s an honest document of what it feels like to wade through anxiety, day by day, not a survival guide or handbook of answers none of us actually have. This reaches much further and says much more than any kind of manifesto, any declaredly political statement; sharing in a raw and basic emotion that usually goes unspoken is the most powerful kind of communion.
What should be stated as well, though, is that whether or not you pay attention to this, Ganser are simply one of the most invigorating, exciting new bands to pop up in this vein of music. Doom may be all around us, but that offers a little light.
Words: Mia Hughes
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