Album Reviews

Stagnant Pools – Temporary Room

on August 02, 2012, 8:00am
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As brothers, Bryan and Doug Enas, better known as Indiana noise-rockers Stagnant Pools, join a long line of duos like The Black Keys and the White Stripes. But while those more prominent acts had the bonds of friendship and marriage between them, Stagnant Pools has the inherent connection that unites all siblings. With just a year or so between them, the Enas brothers grew up together, developing a lingua franca and commitment few acts could equal. It’s that cohesiveness and their unfaltering dedication that has made their debut LP, Temporary Room, a revitalized take on noise-rock that honors the originating genre while eschewing its occasionally stifling boundaries.

From the sweltering build-up of “Dreaming of You” to the understated interplay of “Consistency”, the pair intrinsically knows how to build a groove that lets every instrument and part, though limited, shine equally, adding layers of intricacy and craftsmanship to each track. Even as the instruments break apart in “Dreaming of You”, there’s a sense of unceasing control, a well-developed structure that doesn’t overpower the moments when the duo light the air on fire with their massive, grimy hooks.

Because the two are perfectly in sync for more basic constructs, it allows them to forge more complex constructs. “Waveland” is deceptively simple, adhering to the same formula of dissident guitar noise anchored by steady drumming. Moments in, though, that balance changes, with the percussion mutating to and fro with varying speeds and volumes, forcing the guitar to quiet itself and restrain what could be a fury of cymbal-ic destruction. They display a chameleon-like ability to emphasize and de-emphasize sounds accordingly, a feat more reflex than musical trick.

That very instinctiveness can, at times, present itself as non-explosive, almost ordinary, as is the case with “Stun”. Here, a hallowed drum beat adds concrete depth to an otherwise weightless guitar that bobs and darts like a psychedelic cobra. While it doesn’t forcefully invade the listener’s ears, it’s a strategically-sound cut that parallels an important aspect of family: real value doesn’t come from flashy displays, but from putting in the hard work to make something meaningful.

But more than just communicating properly, the fact that they’ve willingly limited themselves to the confines of a two-man band speaks volumes. “Dead Sailor” is a tune trying to be grander than it really is, working to build itself into a giant monstrosity of rollicking surf-rock drums and rocket-propelled grenades of guitar cacophony.

Unlike outfits with expanded line-ups, the feedback isn’t quite the right size to illicit the same shock and awe of truly destructive noise-rock, like early Sonic Youth or Jesus Lizard. But their pacing in the face of that roadblock is not only admirable, it creates the opportunity to add diversity and an enhanced focus on danceability and playfulness to the noise-rock aesthetic, which often obsesses on sonic vitriol while forgetting the punk-ish abandonment that forged the scene’s core. The brothers inject a degree of that “fun” into the formula, doing so with respect to each element and as to avoid a general sense of imbalance.

With “Maze of Graves”, the siblings further fine-tune their take on noise-rock’s capabilities. At its core, the track chugs forward on the back of the album’s catchiest guitar parts, sludge metal ferocity with a topcoat of pop accessibility, and emotionally-detached vocals that are somehow a bit sexy. It’s a defining example of the duo’s work to merge their individual inspirations into one blend. Doing so between two members gives more of their influences, specifically the minimalism of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the rhythmic tendencies of Joy Division, more room; beyond that, it creates interesting efforts where unlikely combinations (the aforementioned “Maze of Graves”) can bump together violently for spectacular and truly telling results.

It’s not hyperbole to say that this LP would be completely different had it not been recorded by two friends/collaborators instead. Who they are as a unit, the memories they share, their common traits, and even any natural friction or discord between them is the album’s very lifeblood and the source of its profound influence. Mama Enas should give herself a huge pat on the back. 

Essential Tracks: “Maze of Graves”, “Waveland”, and “Stun”

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