If you reference the words France and noise-rock to me, some great bands come to mind: the punky hoodlums A.H. Kraken from Metz, experimental groovians The Snobs from Milly-la-Forêt and heavy psych ramblers Gunslingers from Grenoble. It’s not as if France is really the most well known place for bands from this genre to spawn from, but the 90’s and 00’s had a slew of great bands that have long broken up. Luckily, noise-rock has been on a return recently with bands like Metz, Idles and Girl Band releasing some of the most acclaimed rock records of the last year and finally there are some new sounds from France to join them: The Psychotic Monks, hailing from Paris.
Taking inspiration from the line ‘Life is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing’ in Macbeth for their band name, it’s a perfect fit for this French band as dark as Shakespeare’s most tragic king. Debuting with Silence Slowly & Madly Shines in 2017, it showcases various studio experiments which really shows the band’s various sides. It’s hard to really put them in one corner when their sound swings from the industrial inspired The Bad and the City Solution, an obvious nod to the Australian expats Crime & the City Solution’s unique blend of art punk from the 80’s, to the surprisingly relaxing close note Walk by the Wild Lands, which seems to have more in common with the organ driven side of 60’s psychedelic pop. Even with how slight the 60’s psychedelic pop influences are, they bring a unique touch to this very solid noise-rock record and give it some much needed breathing room. The absolute highlight is the behemoth-like Sink which in it’s 12 minute runtime goes from a loud, stuttering noise-rock tune to a beautiful sprawling, ambient-like ending, surprisingly sounding like a whole record all pulled from various sessions.
The band set out on tour after the release of their debut with various tours of Europe and the UK following which saw the band’s hypnotic tight sound cover various sold out shows and festivals, including Transmusicales de Rennes, where they got their biggest break so far, along with recording a blistering live session for the famous radio station/YouTube channel KEXP.
After the tours the band set out to record the follow up their debut, coming out on November 27st on FatCat record. It sees the band making Private Meaning First something very apt to 2020’s mindset.
Recorded in the French countryside in a cramped house acting as a studio, it for sure carries the sound of its surroundings. Loud, broken and mostly overwhelming waves of loud guitars breaking into songs that seem to fall apart and rebuild at their own will. It’s a suffocating album, perfect for these times where the band constantly switches from high octane noise-rock to slow broken minimal rhythms that endlessly destroy and reconstruct themselves. From the beautiful gloomy opener Pale Dream on the band never goes the easy road and prefers to seek out the mayhem and beauty of what is to be seen in the unknown trails.
Deconstruction/reconstruction are the keywords here, it never feels like you can expect what is coming up next even after multiple listens. The band never fall into easy musical motifs for a second and keep you on your toes with their ever changing sound that ranges from the loud monotone no-wave inspired Closure that recalls the drone-like one note guitar solos of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, to the downbeat psychedelic rock of Emotional Disease which seems straight out of a obscure private pressing record from the 60’s. There’s not a moment where the band takes complete ease, there is always another noise explosion looming in a corner with the tension running as a livewire through the whole record. It clearly shows a band that knows its power lies more in building tension and emotion then technique. Like the previous record this all feels like it was straight cut to record with not thought thrown in production in the best way they could. Just all feeling, no time to fix screw ups.
The perfect showcase of this is the near 16 minute ending track, Every Sight, which sees the band slowly building from broken noises to a slow brooding nest of guitars and vocals about slowly breaking up inside, slowly but surely building to a explosion of loud screeching noise-rock busted out by a near tribal drum and bass with screeching guitars trying to worm itself through the beat. It is a perfect ending to a record that keeps endlessly crawling up on you and throwing in new directions when you least expect them and keeps the thrill alive for its full running time.
With this album the band made a record that is extremely of this time and it feels like traveling through a looming claustrophobic darkness you can never really escape. This is all meant in the most positive way. With just two albums under their belt, The Psychotic Monks already have shown big growth in their sound which is just made to be played for a live crowd. So when concerts become a real thing again, be sure to catch them. But till that happens, Private Meaning First is an extremely solid slice of nerve wrecking tense noise-rock.