Activate Elevate, the new four-tracker from Agness Pike, was released track by track over the past few weeks, and has now reached its frothy conclusion.
As with their previous work, it’s a combination of expertly-played, finely-crafted prog-punk and theatrical vocal posturing: and if that sounds up your street, they do it very, very well. It’s the vocal style that’s most likely to be divisive amongst listeners; portentous, deep warbling or half-spoken lyrical messages that sound tongue-in-cheek, although it’s difficult to be sure. From John Lydon to Cardiacs to Young Knives, ‘weird’ vocals in British music are not a new trait, and certainly not one that signifies any particular dip in quality.
Musically, the band cite Tad and Shudder To Think as influential, and I’d throw in Melvins and Prong also. So there’s a sludgily-grooving rhythm section providing an often complex backbone for riff-laden guitar punk; it’s good-time moshpit music, albeit with a rotten heart and a sense of the perverse that’s shared with the aforementioned Cardiacs and Primus. Agness Pike are prone to dip into the ‘creeping dread’ side of music as well as to inhabit a chaotic world of noise; and overall they generate a dizzying sense of restlessness that’s tempered well by the arch approach to their music. Whether they’re joking or not is hard to ascertain: maybe that’s the point, it’s difficult to tell.