Deathwish Inc. - 15 €
Death Index is the collaboration between Carson Cox, lead singer for Merchandise, and Marco Rapisarda, a regular in Italy's hardcore scene. Unlike most hardcore or punk records, Death Index was made layer-by-layer in a studio, creating a cool distance between vocals and music that allows for some fascinating contrasts. Merchandise’s evolution from wounded bedroom pop to vivid college rock was paralleled by vocalist Carson Cox’s public contemplation of punk, a slide from weary respect for its values to exhaustion with its dogma. In 2012, Cox told Pitchfork, "Punk is still the spiritual music of my life, but I’m not interested in being that kind of person anymore." In 2014, ahead of Merchandise’s 4AD-released After the End, he demurred to NME, "I was born after punk died, so whatever." To Noisey: "I’m just sick of fucking punk scenes." Fittingly then, Cox and collaborator Marco Rapisarda’s collaboration as Death Index didn’t involve rehearsal, gigging, or any other trappings of scene participation. It’s the next passage in Cox’s personal history of estrangement from punk. Death Index was recorded in Berlin, Tampa, and Italy. Cox sings on every track. Rapisarda, a regular in Italy’s hardcore scene, plays everything else. A few songs surfaced online late last year, grabbing attention from high-profile U.S. hardcore label Deathwish. Their live lineup is forthcoming at the moment of Death Index’s release, meaning the record was made by in-studio, part-by-part layering. It's a novel way to create punk or hardcore—which typically celebrate live ensemble combustibility and recordings that capture it—and the oblique approach helps explain Death Index’s alien charms and rudderless missteps alike. The recording process’s fragmentation seems to have yielded an album where Cox sounds as distant from the music as he apparently feels from punk itself. Sometimes that distance makes for fascinating contrasts, setting Rapisarda's deft, muscular performances against Cox's emotionally textured vocals. Musically, opener "Fast Money Kill" is rousing, concise hardcore that Antidote fans will recognize as nearly identical to "Life as One." But Cox’s full-bodied singing, with its aching quiver and trill, evokes the dreary post-punk of Manchester. His nuanced, wounded croon also distinguish the throttling "Fuori Controllo" and the leering "Little N Pretty," the music's insular, sealed-off atmosphere allowing for the unlikely combination to flourish. Sometimes, though, the sound skews antiseptic and clinical on songs that crave deformities. The dirge-like "FUP," on which Cox professes his numbness in rather hackneyed terms, ("I’m so fucked up/ That I fall down to my knees/ Where you can’t feel anything") and the spare synth pulsations of "Lost Bodies" feel like orphaned intros, over before they start. "The Meal" and "We’ve Got a Number" feature martial rhythms and rollicking riffs in the style of post-punk acts such as the Birthday Party but it's missing the dynamics, the urgency, the frantic, headlong motion, and the threat of splintering apart. Here it feels more like a grid plotted with leaden thwacks and blackened leads. In these moments, Death Index sounds too steady; undergirded by the metronomic logic of the studio, it precludes the mutations, even mistakes, that live collaboration instilled in its influences.