Review: Sly & The Family Drone – Unnecessary Woe

Unnecessary Woe begins like a haunted house building itself. It’s just clatters of movement to begin with; things falling off of shelves onto concrete floor; cymbals squealing under a rough, horse hair friction; kicked up high frequency dust that hits the microphone as puffs of static. Soon it’s dead voices garbled through tape and bass frequencies hammering the windows, and as the opening stir of “Handed Cack” moves into the 12-minute “Grey Meat”, the sounds begin to vocalise and intercommunicate with greater confidence, thickening from implicating vapour into thumping flesh. This is where Sly start to gather pace, and anyone that’s seen them live will recognise that formidable rhythmic drive – that a ritualistic tom drum thump – that starts to propel them forward.

The sense of escalation feels as though it might be endless: cymbal crashes start to seep in overhead and the analogue matter in the centre starts to turn from incidental whirrs into quivering shrill whistles and rapid-fire laser guns, evoking a panic that seems to send the whole piece into double time. Everything is distinct, and yet the noise forms this gorgeous crackling mist in the centre too, manifesting as a translucent overlap of tape noise and feedback. Mutation is constant, and instead of engaging in some sort of stagnant repetition, Sly throb and heave as a muscle and the sum of its micro-movements, urging eachother constantly upward.

On the flipside is a 20-minute piece entitled “A Man That Could Look No Way But Downwards With A Muck-Rake In His Hand”, which spends its first half in lurches of percussive hits and the squeal of breaks before a congregative choir of screams announces the resumption of forward movement. This time the beat feels more bleak and destined to break – the spluttering voices curl back in on themselves, and Unnecessary Woe trundles kraut-like into its grim and inevitable conclusion. I am left limp and exhausted – the band seem to drain both themselves and the listener of all physical energy during the process, so that the denouement is always a dramatic collapse of both sound and body.