What would be oblivion sound like should it ever occur? Would it be bold and beautiful, explosive and searing, or a brooding experience done in slow motion? It likely would be all of the above, and the soundtrack for this historical moment would be Stillwave‘s debut album, Sell Another Soul.
The record encompasses the multiple facets of the long-time favorites of the Dutch underground scene. Post-punk, industrial, indie rock, Goth-rock, and even a bit of krautrock meld together to form a dark, impenetrable, and foreboding soundscape. At any give time, the trio resemble The National or transform into a mix of My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, and Joy Division. Whatever band or genre they tackle, every song on Sell Another Soul is an experience. An experience to our final act.
The opening track, “Cradle”, represents the slow march to our inevitable demise, and it is the LP’s most stunning track. Gentle and wistful yet meandering from dazzling to haunting, the song is a piece of cinema coming to life. Marcel Jongejan’s deep tenor and lyrics resemble Matt Berninger, and the song will leave fans of The National doing double takes.
“The crash course junction bellows at me.
I take you underneath.
And as your shape reforms me,
I’ll wait for you to breathe.
Cinema is achieved on the brilliant “She Flies A Tracer”. Stark, mesmerizing, and captivating, the song feels like two people trapped in an underground dungeon, and the deep vocals and crippling lyrics add to the track’s darkness. As devastating as “She Flies A Tracer” is, it’s just the start of this journey to oblivion, which is reaches epic and breathtaking proportions particularly as it nears the end.
“As she turns the engine off.
At the quiet center
Crack and it falls apart.
Love is on your knees
In a brightened demeanor.”
A film-noir feeling at envelops “Box Cart Sucker” at first. This story of a person trying to escape from her situation is quietly suspenseful at first; however, it soon turns sinister. The intensity escalates with each fierce rift from the fuzzed-out guitar every throbbing tone from the bass and drums. Jongejan’s vocals, too, become aggressive, as he cruelly invites his guest for one final drink before the end arrives. The sobering and moving “’94 Civic”, on the other hand, is full of remorse and memory. Jongejan recalls one beautiful night between two people, and it also happen to be one last goodbye.
“Does he know why we are going slowly?
Tell me how to live.
Does he know why we are going slowly?”
The companion pieces, “Do Less Live Longer” and “How To: Jump Out of a Moving Car”, are two of the album’s boldest songs. MBV-like shoegaze guitars filter throughout the songs, but the rhythm section channels Joy Division. Meanwhile, Jongejan brilliantly impersonates Ian Curtis with his desperate and urgent voice. These are post-punk tracks like nothing out there today. They are songs that blow minds with their cosmic force yet haunt with their dark broodiness.
“Adeleide”, however, is Stillwave at their creative peak, as they magnificently fuse sound, textures, and emotions. The taut synths and pulsing rhythms create a foreboding atmosphere, but the occasional strike of the dissonant and reverb-drenched guitar adds color and brightness. Consequently, a push-pull feeling is created – we’re frightened, as if we entered a dark alley in a sketchy part of town, yet there is exhilaration in the unknown. Jongejan’s deep vocals further intensify these feelings, as his voice waivers between sinister and optimism. “We can believe ourselves / Dead or alive”, he informs us as we continue to travel down this treacherous path.
The album comes to a close with the immensely dark “KTLBLCK”. Oblivion has been reached not for humanity but for one man, as the song reveals the inner turmoil of a man. A man who is full of regret for letting his friend or lover get into the car for the last time, and his life comes crashing down. It’s a fantastic ending to an album that strips us of our invincibility and makes us feel vulnerable. It makes us realize the fragility of our existence and how one event can change everything. And maybe, Sell Another Soul, will change the fortunes of Stillwave, who, like The National, make the brooding incredibly beautiful. Or in the case of their album, make it enrapturing and unforgettable.
Sell Another Soul is out now, and it can be streamed on Spotify.
Stillwave are Joris Keizer (drums), Michaël van Putten (guitar), and Marcel Jongejan (vocals). They currently are on tour in the Netherlands, and they have three gigs over in the UK in December. Details are available here.
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