Enablers have always had moments where raw force seems to overpower the outline of their music. Precision falters as they collectively play host to a sudden overcharge, subsumed by the voltage of sentiment, dissonances bursting out of the gaps between guitar chords, drums like cliffs in collapse. On Zones, the band are particularly beset by this state of energy-in-excess, albeit in all emotional directions: as guitars weave into the vulnerable, contemplative haze of the morning (“Even Its Lies”), or howl in rapturous anguish over the cymbal crashes (“Broke”).
The whole record plays out as a feud between civility and unwieldy outburst, with the former regularly submitting to the latter. “Bill, In Consideration” gives the impression of being recorded on a downward slope, with guitars and drums in jagged and injurious somersault, and the central protagonist tumbling just beyond the reach of vocalist Pete Simonelli’s lassoing ribbon of descriptors. Similarly, on “Squint” – words splash on top of themselves as the band brace through some sort of waltz-in-overdrive, with the riff reduced to a palpitating jangle as it tries to keep pace. The album is mixed so that everything is pressed tightly together, which only abets this escalation further. Lead melodies are forced to zig-zag around cymbals on their way to the surface. The two guitars interlace like limbs and fingers. Rabid exclamations of “WOW!” cut themselves on the edge of a dozen frantically-plucked strings.
Even the passages of relative calm – such as the trickling verse of “In McCullin’s Photograph” – feel part-withered by their own solemnity, the beat falling out of step and falling back in again, stumbling through phases of light-headedness and promptly returning to lucidity. Simonelli’s words outstretch toward this amorphous energy that causes the band to buckle and falter, approximating it through contemplations on the immutable gravity of grief and the sudden jolt of a memory’s return, places and figures emerging and melting, like the fluid rifling of the unconscious during the ambush of realisation. During the 11-minute title track, he lifts upward to announce: “We’ve been broken down into zones, down well into zones & walls, warned to stay inside, inside, waiting to see what the river’s walls, waiting, might do, or what the river does, waiting, too.” Through the myriad of readings – that sense of tense hesitation and enforced isolation – I feel this lyric as a reflection on how this music spills beyond the body of the rock band, rupturing lungs and bursting open at the edges, always prepared to sabotage the intricacy of songcraft, and the civil edges of their designated zone, through the strength of pure, shapeless sensation.
I keep coming back to the opening track, “Even Its Lies”. The evocation of a bleary morning. That quiet margin between sunrise and the full awakening of the city. The instruments rouse themselves from slumber: starting with the drip of a single guitar, opening out into the gentle emergence of a second, then breaking into a giddy skip as though throwing the curtains back and squinting at the bright tarmac of the street outside. Melodically the track is pitched beautifully upon that haze of a mind lifting toward consciousness, the frets loosely held as the harmonies glint and flutter. I begin to notice a glistening string drone emerging in the background, tracing the ascent of the sun and the dispersal of light, gleaming off cymbal edges and plectrum plucks.
Based on the Bandcamp page, I take it that Simonelli’s poem is based on Centre Street in Red Hook, New York (which the internet tells me is a stretch of road tucked along the underside a motorway overpass, home to a car wash and a trucking depot). A street sweeper observes the ritual of the morning unfolding – “surveying a sky and a road leading up to the sun backlighting the appearance of a morning’s drifty though usual cast of players”. The mental image of people rendered ghostly in their daydreaming absence, yet solidified by their clockwork daily appearances. Between Simonelli’s words and the gentle unfurling of the instruments, I can almost feel the acute light and nascent warmth of the early morning, my mind softening into the space between sleep and awake. Enablers have always evoked particular moments of time so potently: the late-morning coffee in the garden on “Career-Minded Individual”, the late-night drama that spills out of “Went Right”, the relentless evening rain on “Output Negative Space”. I accept the vivid images presented on “Even Its Lies” and add them to this collection, occupying them as though the memories were my own.
3: 01 August 2019
Let’s not neglect the quieter moments on Zones: when the guitars wilt into fingerplucked refrains and Simonelli’s voice drops to a low murmur, all balanced upon beats that idle along like a ticking clock. It’s within these passages that Enablers illuminate the intensity of empty spaces, and how inner troubles and memories often plume into being once the air is rested by the vacation of whirling limbs. “Goon Seat” seems to speak of a romantic connection changing hue; a breakup maybe, or otherwise an unspoken realisation that the romance has migrated to a more complicated, potentially untenable territory. “Your suspicions quiet down, your body hair quiets down,” Simonelli utters, his voice dragging the energy toward a sedentary state of either flickering concern or calm. The melody paints this piece as a slow ballad. Each chord is announced patiently, left to echo into the darkness before the next one washes it away. Another line: “until the tears’ old and future reasons drop like opposing hands in the dark”, which asserts how Enablers treat the timeline of life as both a muddled deck of present tenses and a continuous ribbon of cascading consequence. From the seizure of “Squint” and “Bill, In Consideration” to the unravelling continuum of “Goon Seat” and “Furthermore”, the group convey the oscillation between the moment and the infinite.