Review: Le Petite Mort – “Disco”

The name of the song is “A Piano In The Basement” and, though it closes the 13-track record, it’s the best point where you can enter Disco, the new LP from German trio Le Petite Mort (Little Death) now out on digital devices and vinyl via Cold Press. The song starts with glassy, post-rock guitars and jazz-inflected percussion but quickly is supplanted by a mathcore thrash and shotgun-blast drums – then there are the guttural screams from frontman Steffen Smirny, whose monstrous bark is of the throat-shredding screamo variety. The band eventually settles into a kind of maddening descent, a real blast of powder-keg ammunition dipped in battery acid, chewing at the scenery as much as it’s building it up. And, then, it just … y’know … stops.

Much the same could be said for Disco. There are some truly truly truly brilliant passages here – rubbery, nimble-fingered guitar work worthy of math-rock enthusiasts Rob Ford Explorer, and full-band threnodies taken right from the pages of A Minor Forest, by way of The Locust. (These guys could teach Rolo Tomassi a thing or two, no doubt.) But the album sometimes lacks cohesion. You could tick off a list of the great songs on it, starting right from square one with opener “The Antler,” whose explosive refrains harken back to Bastro. “Stiff Fingers,” where pickpocket electronics (or is that keyboards?) swirl behind a wall of hardcore guitars, positively roils. The mind-blowing “Glasa” (one of the record’s best tracks and, not incidentally, one of its shortest) and the singe-the-skin arsenal “Der Kleine Lord” are like aural shrapnel, exploded drawings cut and pasted back together within an inch of their lives. And “Un Grande Rue” is grand, indeed, with a two-minute stop-and-start assault giving way to “closing” passages that are more ephemeral, even draped in a bit of subtlety. This all should be duly noted.

But, ultimately, the thing can feel really exhausting as it shifts, often without much warning, from one punch in the gut to the next. (There are only so many times you can have the wind knocked out of you before you have to take a step back and reassess the situation, ain’t I right?) Without much reason for its breakneck shifts in tone and time in many of the LP’s songs, Le Petite Mort’s bipolar anxieties become reduced to a many-beats-per-minute exercise in high-contrast texture and, yeah, speed, a lot of speed. If that’s your m.o. – and, as screamo goes, this is alarmingly dense, rewarding stuff – this record is cut from your cloth. But, for others, this will seem like a well overflowing with ideas. (Though, it should be said this record is light-years ahead of recent work by mathcore outfit The Glad Husbands, which I accused of a similar sin.)

Then again, repeated listening of Disco is rewarding and hints at larger themes, even a kind of sense of rhythms and cycles traversed. While the record might benefit from more pauses or lulls – they offer one exhalation, the moody keyboard drone “Dungeons,” too late in the game to make much difference – it also might benefit from heavier-handed editing. Man, when these guys get cooking, though, you’re really going to want to crank it up. Now, it’s time to roll down the windows and scare the neighbors. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Jan. 10, 2020

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