ISIS – simples. Pelican – simples. Botch – simples. But then I guess there’s always got to be someone to bang the awkward-band-name drum hasn’t there?
Hotel Wrecking City Traders have got not just my mind but also my tongue twisted into a confused state of heady bemusement. Try saying it nice, firmly and slow, out loud… I bet you’ve just used parts of your face you didn’t even know existed. And as you mouth it over and over again, faster and faster, it eventually becomes an exercise in bouncing your bottom lip off the base of your nose before too long. I’m just going to cut my losses now and refer to them as HWCT henceforth – schimplsch.
Right, music! Yes… OK, HWCT are a heavy grooving duo from Melbourne Australia, a.k.a. that place wot iz well daaan unda mate! Despite not having put out a full length record since 2008’s promising debut ‘Black Yolk’, Ben Wrecker (drums) and Toby Wrecker (guitar) have certainly been busy brothers, putting out splits with the likes of Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spider Goat Canyon and even the master of the cacti himself, Mr Gary Arce. Add to that a tour in Japan, support slots back home with everyone from Saint Vitus and Karma to Burn, to Earthless and Russian Circles and upon the dawn of their debut European tour which includes a spot at this week’s hot ticket, London’s DesertFest 2014 and it’s not hard to see that these traders are truly invested in finding new cities to wreck with their instrumentally cosmic jams.
The five track strong ‘Ikiryo’ (which a certain search engine that may or may not rhyme with the word “boogle” informs me is Japanese for “living ghost”) gets off to an energetic start with a fuzzed up powerhouse named ‘Breath’. T.Wrecker’s guitar grows ever louder as it intertwines around B.Wrecker’s complex drums patterns and a healthy battery of electronic feedback. With no vocals permitted, it’s up to the riffage to create its own narrative as swirls of delicate melody flake across the strong, oaky beats like a rain shower sparkling through a sunny forest.
Slowly, the frantic early pummel subsides into a small pool of esoteric, ISIS-laden calm before re-emerging in the earnest form of ‘Riley’. B.Wrecker leans more heavily on his crash cymbal as the brothers slide rapidly into some foot-stomping aplomb that sits partway between Russian Circles and Baroness. With the constantly cyclic 4-bar shifts of rhythm, it does feel like there’s an open gap which yearns too hard for some vocal interaction and ‘Riley’ quickly moves into the sort of territory that begs a “so what next?” of the Aussie pair before it all too abruptly just ends.
The cutely-named ‘Dance The Hempen Jig’ is a more dynamic, mechanical piece which first sets off on a White Hills-meets-Torche angle, before toying with some more metallic energy and an up-tempo sense of urgency. But once again, there’s little pay-off as the fuzzy riff breaks down in its over-repetition and lack of inquisitiveness to explore new pastures before the overdue end of this five-minute burst right back at the same riff progression where it began.
‘Tetryl’ is almost nu-stoner metal in its approach – taking in both the niggling, self-eating metal riffs of Korn and Deftones as well as the backwater pastiches of Kyuss or Yawning Man. If there was a Mario Lalli or a John Garcia uttering some sweet serenades on top of this carefully-crafted yet not creatively unique passage of humid guitar and languishing drumwork, it would be more cohesive in my opinion. But instead, the electric stormclouds of T.Wrecker’s feedbacking guitar simply let the mind and ears wane away on the breeze before the track’s juddering summit of didgeridoo-flavoured sand-worship is reached.
Propping up the entire release is the ambitious and closing 13-minute title track, which brings together all of HWCT’s most promising traits whilst at the same time remaining ungenerous in its promise to release the listener from the duo’s sticky dustbowl haze. It’s clear just how deep Gary Arce’s influence runs here alongside the experience of playing shows with the likes of instrumental goliaths Earthless. ‘Ikiryo’ the song is more mysterious than the inner workings of a woman’s mind; somehow managing to be both electric and acoustic at the same time. Time seems to stand still as B.Wrecker’s toms roll forever forward and T.Wrecker’s intricate noodlings bounce of clouds, trees, stray dingoes and corrugated iron shacks in a calm-before-the-storm building of tension. That storm does eventually hit with around 50% of this epic track remaining, but again it falls down in over-repetition and under-variety of layers with a few minutes left to burn.
Perhaps ‘Ikiryo’ is a record built to be experienced live and not via some mid-range headphones in semi-suburban Britain, but ultimately I felt a little disappointed by the lack of progression in what should be its key moments of triumph. The Wrecking brothers clearly have the equipment, the time, the production resources and the playing skills to craft something mighty and powerful yet beautiful at the same time, but ‘Ikiryo’ just doesn’t quite pan out to be the classic record that it threatens to be throughout its duration. A vocalist I am convinced, even if not a permanent fixture, could provide the missing link between these songs’ hidden stories and weathered appearances and a more rounded connection to the listener which will really take us all on a journey.
But for now let’s raise a stubby VB and doff our trucker caps to *breathe in* Hotel Wrecking City Traders and their living ghost of an album. I wouldn’t like to foot the bill for these guys’ worldwide litter trail of smashed up mini-bars any time soon, but I’ll certainly be checking out their pinstriped suits and beer-stained tip sheets this weekend at DesertFest. Fingers crossed we get our keycard deposits back at the very least.
Scribed by: Pete Green