Published May 08, 2019In a Toronto appearance in support of his 2018 solo album Pissing Stars, Efrim Manuel Menuck introduced a song with duelling questions: "What does it mean to be alive when we're surrounded by so much death?" he asked. "What does it mean to be so dead when we're in the middle of so much life?"
The only answer to either of those two questions, he offered, "is an urgent, forgiving, violent love," but that "takes work" and "sounds like tears."
Forging a new creative partnership with touring accompanist Kevin Doria (Growing), in keeping with that vernacular of radical emotional labour and desperate hope, a press release spells out the occasion for a questioning new cascade of naked feeling and electricity in antifascist, survivalist terms: "A PROCESS OF FIGURING OUT WHILE EXHAUSTED WHILE HURTLING WHILE WORRIED," recommended if you like Fighting Fascism: How To Struggle And How To Win by German Marxist theorist and women's rights advocate Clara Zetkin. The distorted guitar and percussive electronic rhythms that graced Pissing Stars are left behind, as Doria and Menuck seek answers in six oscillators, three large amplifiers and altogether more intricate drone compositions.
Opening track "Do the Police Embrace?" looks for harmony in the state-haunted dissonance between citizen and fuzz, but when Menuck utters the song's title prompt, it could just as easily be taken for a dance instruction, evoking imagery of cops and citizens tangled in vicious headlocks while also contemplating how much love it might take to penetrate those that wear literal armour, the pair countering the sirens circling them as they record in Mexico City with a hopeful droning waltz.
From there, "Fight the Good Fight" thrusts listeners into an angelic squall while an ominous presence lumbers below; "A Humming Void An Emptied Place" finds radiant common ground between competing oscillations; and "Joy Is on Her Mount and Death Is at Her Side" wrings hands over a murdered forest while trying to acknowledge the new life sprouting from the ruins.
These are tearful anarchist synth sermons for a landscape all but completely fucked by snake oil slingers, their demoralized goons and the noise surrounding them, and our next steps forward won't be easy.
Even "We Will" — the album's parting song that "INSISTS THAT WE WILL WIN" — is framed in bleak terms, Menuck crying out while he and Doria power down the machines in a gloomy pulse.
But the noise surrounding our most glaring problems exist precisely because there are still voices seeking to challenge the status quo. Through reckoning with it, Menuck and Doria found a new creative partnership, and each return to are SING SINCK, SING provides that crucial reminder while offering a shoulder to cry on. (Constellation)