Distants – LP (Salinas Records, 2024)

I’ve been vaguely fucking with the music of Distants online for a few months now, but didn’t really know how to get ahold of their shit here in the UK. Sometimes the stars miraculously align, though. In this case I was approached by the band through my Instagram page, asking if they could send through their new LP for review. Apparently they enjoy the verbal diarrhea I churn out online and the badly framed photos of records I put up on Instagram. Of course I said “yes, please send it on”. Generously enough, they also sent me a copy of their second EP, II which has a glorious gold print on the flip. And that, ladies and gentlemen is how to operate if you are old school enough to value other people’s critical input in support of your releases, and pick and choose carefully who you get to jock your shit. Word.

Distants have been putting their stuff into the world since 2016 or so, at least as far as I can ascertain from their bandcamp page where you can listen to what I assume is their entire back catalogue. They come from Michigan, which I am given to understand is a quite massive area and also has one of those big-ass lakes you hear about, and also, Indiana (about which I always had this weird chicken-egg situation going on: what came first – Indiana Jones or Indiana state? The answer is of course obvious…). What I can tell you is that Alex Angus has / does (according to Discogs) also play in Canadian Rifle (I recently managed to complete my collection of their vinyl releases) and Wormburner. Which is pretty good pedigree, if you ask me. Not that anybody did.

Obviously, the American mid-West is a hotbed of awesome when it comes to both gruff punk “orgcore” type bands, as well as big names from the 1990s emo revival and subsequent variations on that style, often referred to by ignoramuses (ignoramusi?) such as myself, as “Midwest emo”. It’s little wonder then, that a whole load of awesome stuff seems to have been subsumed in an osmosis-like manner and reprocessed to form the rich Distants sound. Which isn’t to say that stuff from further afield doesn’t creep in there… The main thing I’m feeling here, however, is akin to what would happen if Pegboy were jamming Iron Chic joints, or some kind of “what if” scenario As Friends Rust (around the first two Eps) collaborated with Grade (around Under the Radar time) on some Promise Ring songs. Yeah, I feel like I’m hip to it.

Although there’s a really raw feel to the mix, which is no bad thing in my book, this recording feels kinda special. Like it’s been recorded live without much reliance on knob twiddling and click tracks. I’m particularly a fan of where the bass sits in the mix here, for some reason; like an ideal counterpoint to the vocals, which have that raw, rough around the edges feel that makes you feel like these guys really mean it, and adds to that “live” aspect of the sound. The guitars provide that texturized backdrop, sounding over-driven and reverbed out to the point where it’s walking a razors edge line between breaking down into squalling washes of noise; it’s entirely enthralling stuff, that excitingly teeters on the brink of not being kept in line by the rhythm section.

Lyrically we have the age-old classic themes of existential angst, post-modern ennui and self-centered navel-gazing and self-admonishment. Hey, it’s what we’re here for, right? I remember back in the day we put Leatherface on in Manchester, and one of the support bands, the Fractions (who were from Rochdale I think) brought some random drunken / drug-addled relic of a punk guy (who probably still thought it was 1982) along with them. Anyway, this guy with his one tooth and lack of contact with reality was constantly shouting out “play a happy song”, and Frankie Stubbs was all (in a Sunderland accent): “yerve come to see the wrong fucken’ band, pal”.

Anyways, there’s some great, evocative little epithets scattered throughout the lyric sheet, so I’m going to quote some of my favourites:

“We’ve been promised a light with no sight of a tunnel” (Jolly Good)
“moaning like a shitty ghost, a lifeless, greying shell” (Family Recipe)
“I got out of the rain. I got out of the way. Drying out like it’s January” (Hurrier)
“Beyond the pruny fingers, the dried, cracked knuckles and four-day whiskers, there’s someone else inside looking for a different way to whisper” (Mirror Year)

Anyways, enough of my nonsense. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this record, and you should too. You can even check it on the player below…
Tony of Nurgle rating 9/10

This is available approximately now direct from Distants at a show, or from the Salinas Records webstore.

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