Sleigh Bells – Treats

“HOLY SHIT, MY SPEAKERS.”

I remember this being my first response to the startling crescendo in “Infinity Guitars.” Opening up with a swinging bass/handclap rhythm and subversive guitar line, Alexis Krauss cheerleader-like shouts fill the foreground with vague mentions of cowboys and Indians before the song explodes outward with speaker-shattering force. This cacophonous monstrosity is but track four on a record that is resplendent with this hip-hop-meets-metal kind of texture, a clever amalgam of Slayer-like aggression and alternative hip-hop danceability.

The broken speaker is not an unusual phenomenon for this noise-pop duo that’s just as accessible as they are vexingly loud. Sleigh Bells make their mark with a sound that is wholly contemporary, yet unmistakably idiosyncratic. Miller’s guitar slashes and screeches with the delicacy expected of a former member of Miami hardcore group Poison the Well while Krauss chimes in with unflinching ease, resounding with both the prominence and subtlety of a chillwave vocalist. Nowadays, metal is becoming increasingly more mainstream as dance music progresses both towards Hedonistic extremes and retrogressively towards 80’s emulation. The precocious Sleigh Bells have utilized auspicious timing (though likely unintentionally) to arrive on the music scene, earn MIA’s fervent praise, and make the bills on several summer festivals, all the while both exalting and transcending all their idiosyncrasies. In this sense, the record Treats is just as startling as it is refreshingly multilateral in appeal.

Their relentless penchant for destructive volume was not entirely a choice based in aesthetics, however. Krauss and Miller should be an inspiration to the smallest of us who think they can never form a band because they don’t have the cash. The duo blast forth their peppery maelstrom utilizing nothing more than a couple of cheap amps, a microphone, a Gibson SG, and some beats off an iPod. Their answer to low-quality sound is more and more volume; Miller recalls being frustrated with his low-rate equipment and its sub-par sound, deciding instead to blast his guitar louder and louder until tone became an afterthought. The result is astounding, yet invigorating: a harsh aesthetic of crudity that becomes an unstoppable force of club-floor hooks delivered with an indomitable confidence.

When trying (using the word lightly) to digest music that is as thoroughly embedded in its catchy pop appeal as it is in its noisy poor-quality sound, it’s not difficult to catch how crucial the combination is to its lasting effect. And the record’s sound stays remarkably dynamic, never revealing its 32-minute brevity among its terse sense of completion until you happen to check the total play time in your media player. It’s astounding from any standpoint how these two could craft an album that is crudely specific by definition and yet able to flow through tracks as polarized as the mellow waltz “Rill Rill” and the Reign in Blood death charge “Straight A’s.” And that’s precisely why this album is so remarkable; it fuses what are many ostensibly polar opposites, like forcing the like poles of two magnets together, into a surprisingly cohesive record that functions in part due to this near-unnoticeable incongruity.

by Mason “Yes, they play sleigh bells” McGough

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1 Comment

  1. New Review! Sleigh Bells – Treats « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Sleigh Bells – Treats, by Mason McGough […]

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