The Ipecac Recordings label has done a phenomenal job at nurturing artists to create inspired, creatively diverse records while still maintaining an undefinable intrinsic quality that binds them all together. One supposes this philosophy is an extension of its co-founder Mike Patton who adds more projects to his resume every year that are bizarrely divergent, yet somehow similar. Beyond Patton’s list of projects, Ipecac is home to the likes of Melvins, Mark Lanegan, Daughters, Alain Johannes and Isis. They back ground-breaking Inuk throat singer, Tanya Tagaq and Josh Homme’s indulgently collaborative Desert Sessions. Their brand identity is strong and cohesive. They also represented a highly influential little noise-rock band out of New York called Unsane.
In a surprise announcement in August of last year, Unsane lead singer and guitarist Chris Spencer said that he’d be leaving the group. He told Italian zine Equilibrio Precario that “I won’t be playing in Unsane anymore. Human Impact will be the only band I see myself playing in for a while.” So what is this new group that Spencer is so certain in devoting himself to?
Their lineup holds an impressive list of noise rock back credits. Bassist Chris Pravdica and drummer Phil Puleo are recruited from kings of cacophony Swans and guitarist Jim Coleman comes from cult favourites Cop Shoot Cop. With such mettle, the bringing of brash is implied but what Human Impact manages to do on their debut album is tie together messages of a world tearing itself apart at the seams, in a package that retains an eerie sing-song quality. Not unlike the projects of Ipecac’s prolific Godfather.
Pravdica’s driving bass line that introduces the album’s opener, ‘November’ gets electronically mangled upon every iteration to a grinder spinning of its axis. A sickly guitar baying and melting into a digital puddle joins the fray. Spencer’s entrance is jagged but not engulfed in blind rage. Instead, he orates with a resigned malevolence, ‘Here is what’s fucked up…as always, but let’s give it another whirl’. The band expertly swells with Spencer’s frustrations.
‘E6O5’ has the punchy drumming of a Tomahawk track overlaid with a cold industrial vocal that reaches back to the late ’80s Eastern Block. ‘Protester’ surges with sputtering energy while Spencer’s cadence grows demented. ‘Portrait’ dials back to a sparse tom-led, tremolo-dippin’ trip. ‘Cause’ also amazes with space. Puleo and Spencer are largely left to hold their own and the result is a spellbinding hit amidst a record of chaos.
The B-side of the record flows smoothly through it’s 3/4 of the way contemplation points and ramps back up for a crushing finale. ‘Unstable’ and ‘This Dead Sea’ both rip the paint off. The Pravdica/Puleo rhythm section is fucking monstrous. Coleman adds the perfect woozy synth to top it off. Absolutely killer track. Best on the album. Human Impact leave the album smouldering behind them with a pummelling anthem for these havoc-wreaked times.
Human Impact’s debut is a weighty, dominating debut from this noise-rock supergroup. This project takes what that Spencer accomplished with Unsane and elevates it with a collection of brilliantly written songs with a vitriolic edge. This is a powerhouse entry into the Ipecac roster and matches Patton’s high standards. “Cinematic post-industrial filth rock” at its finest.