It’s time for something a bit different. Pound are a two-piece who share common features with many other two-pieces: guitars, drum kits and amplified noise. Pound diverge from the well-tred path with their arrangements. Guitarist Ryan Schutte wields a baritone 9-string guitar that completely annihilates the mix; Schutte’s approach is a throbbing, frothing, foaming attack of staccato discord. Drummer David Stickney isn’t satisfied with one drum kit; mid-song, Stickney alternates between two drum kits positioned at a 90-degree angle as tonal drum changes avalanche with machine-like incessant pounding. His playing alternates: fluid grooves, slides and slights-of-hand segue into piston-like punctures and slams. Together, Schutte and Stickney perform a agonizingly dense mixture of irregular instrumental metal. Nothing is stable. The record quite literally darts in and out of being. It’s a completely engrossing record that affronts a listener from all musical angles. Is it too overwhelming?
•• is Pound‘s second release following their 2018 self-titled debut. An endeavor to master their instruments in the discordant instrumental arena is their credo. Pound have certainly carved an intriguing niche in the market. Instantly you’ll hear traces of grindcore, death metal, djent, jazz, and myriad other genres, all condensed and packaged in thick nuggets of auditory chaos. Opener “x-.+.+.x-.+.x-.x-.+” whips and slides into the ear canal with instantaneous violence. There’s no precursor or preamble here. Schutte’s guitar sounds carries the force of three guitars: the thick low-end resembles the densest of bass guitars, the high-pitched frequencies of the high strings sting and crack with a needle-like fluidity, puncturing the mix with acerbic malice and somewhere in between the two scratching shards of riffwork scrape through the mire. It’s opaque, it’s chaotic and it’s completely invigorating.
There is nothing here that allows you to take a breather, to sit back and relax. .. is half an hour of writhing experimental sound. Second track “x-_-x-_.+._-” is the strongest example of the unhinged quality of the record. Most impressive are the tonal shifts and the filtering of sounds from the instruments. Mid-song, the shift to a different drum set-up is audible and effective. During the industrial segments of deep and dizzying sound the drum carries a bass-heavy tremble that shakes everything. While groovy segments consisting of irregular guitar licks and rhythmic playing are the focus, the drum possesses a lighter elasticity, a jazzier standard that allows Stickney to play more intricate patterns that weave between Schutte’s less rooted string flicking experiments. These shifts in tone and sound have kept me intrigued listen after listen. There are moments where I can’t quite believe the guitar tone could go any lower, but towards the end of tracks like “x-xx-x—x-x—x-x—” I can feel the core of my bowel trembling.
Just as effective are the segues from one moment to the next. Pound don’t linger for too long within a certain mode, nor do they flee from one style to the next with reckless abandon. There’s a balance that serves the song and allows each moment to gel and form in the mind. There are hefty moments of simplistic groove that flood the mix with crushing memorability. The end stretch of the opener is massively addictive, as are the schizophrenic punk rhythms of closer “x_–_+_–_x_–.+_–_x_–+_–” and slams of “x-_-x-_.+._-.” These moments are necessary, a glue and grounding device which stops the album from deviating into messy experimental tomfoolery. Sometimes these punkier moments lack a cutting edge and a unique identity, but thankfully they don’t overwhelm the record.
As a whole there’s a lack of restraint; the record rarely, if ever, softens and dwells in silence. And, perhaps, this is a shame—a longer interlude or some sort of opposing force (silence, tenderness, a sweet caress) would, in my view, aid an album that is clearly on a mission to annihilate the ear and brain in one fell swoop. This isn’t a record of total inaccessible dissonance either, which aids it as a whole. Overall, •• is a record that has renewed something in me. Pound‘s have formed a fresh feeling hybrid style which maintains accessibility and memorability whilst creating something just left-of-center. Yes it’s sterile, yes it’s blunt, but sometimes that’s all you want.