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Secret Passage

Coughs

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Album Review

Having made one clattering, rampaging disc for their debut on Load, Fright Makes Right, Coughs don't let up on the intensity for Secret Passage. Though this one does start off a little more calmly in comparison, with "Quagmire"'s slow then quicker martial beat-driven arrangement providing a perfect bed for Anya Davidson's gripping, shrieked delivery. Using the term "post-punk revival" these days could almost be an insult in some corners, but this isn't emo backwash — instead the arrangement suggests Joy Division's raw early approach and the start of No Wave in New York, ear-piercing and obsessively focused. As the album continues, it's that focus which comes more to the fore — if Fright Makes Right, which was no less structured at many points, sprawled to experiment with various approaches — Secret Passage is much more of a building blast, each song almost feeling like a movement in part of a larger whole. Throughout the disc, Carrie Vinarsky's bass is some serious business, a deathly rumble that sounds like it's cutting through a subterranean cave, and most of the performances feel anchored around that instrument, emphasized further by the thick, murky mixing of the album. The rest of the instrumentalists are no slouches — the grinding, piercing guitar of Vanessa Harris and Seth Sher, and Jon Ziemba's time-signature-switching drumming, as well as Jail Flanagan's wild-card sax and keyboards, all interlock wonderfully. Meanwhile, Davidson reigns supreme, and just when you think you've gotten used to the sheer intensity in her voice it gets better — the conclusion of "Dark Powers" is utterly chilling. Add to all this some inspired introductions to many of the songs, setting stages with theatrical drama — the keyboard hook to "Life of Acne," the bass and sax introduction to "Colors and the Way They Make You Feel" — and the end result shines darkly.

Secret Passage, Coughs
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