A Place To Burt Strangers have mastered the extremities of their post-shoegaze noise rock, but now they’re coloring in the rest of their sound spectrum.
The band’s new album, Worship, opens on a toxic wave of industrial clang and wrenched, grinding guitar noise, but as the record progresses, A Place To Bury Strangers peels away those layers to reveal dreamy peaks and valleys within the sound, says Oliver Ackermann, the band’s singer, songwriter and guitar-destroyer.
“Sometimes you want to be hugged by sound and be more mellow,” Ackermann says.
While “Slide” highlights the mellow side, seemingly-calm songs like “You Are the One” and “And I’m Up” feature parts that disrupt the surface. Ackermann’s guitar, filled with blood-curdling feedback and squeals of sonic deconstruction, twists into the song like a sonic knife. The hypnosis never lasts.
“And I’m Up” first drew Ackermann in with its shock-noise elements, snarling a simple song into a weirder, scary shape.
“It’s a duality of something that is sort of nice and sort of nasty,” Ackermann says.
The Brooklyn-based band gained national notice after the release of their 2007 self-titled debut album. The band’s live show garnered the most attention, built on low light and high volume.
The band recorded the follow-up, 2009’s Exploding Head, mostly on their own, before mixing and recording vocals with Andy Smith. For Worship, the band decided to do it all themselves once again.
Since the band often writes and records at the same time, having an outside producer would make the band’s approach more difficult.
“It would almost take away part of our process,” Ackermann says.
For most of the songs, Ackermann focused on quickly getting the songs recorded, while the idea was still fresh.
The goal is to not labor over the material too much, or the risk of going too far with sonic chaos grows.
However, Worship‘s best moments come from songs that needed tinkering or more thorough disassembling. Ackermann says he’s learned to be willing to “maybe completely destroy what you’re doing.”
“You Are The One” started out as a totally different song, before Ackermann turned it on its head and completely rewrote the lyrics. Meanwhile, “Revenge” was a drastically different animal when bassist Dion Lunadon first handed the initial song to Ackermann.
The band created the album in Brooklyn, inside Ackermann’s practice space. The whole space is able to be changed as needed, with the ability to build walls and tear them down as needed.
The space basically exists under the rule of build it, use it and if you want to, wreck it when you’re finished.
“It’s hard to find these places where you can do whatever you want,” Ackermann says.
While recording, the band’s lineup was also in flux. Dion Lunadon, formerly of the New Zealand band the D4, became the bassist in 2010, while drummer Robi Gonzalez joined while the band was making Worship.
Ackermann says the two band mates have transformed the trio into something new.
“It feels like a rebirth of the band,” he says.
While the band has grown and changed, Ackermann has also gained notice for the line of effects pedals that he builds under the label Death By Audio.
These days, Ackermann designs and others build the pedals by hand. Ackermann says when he’s on tour, plenty of fans ask about his growing board of pedals. The band and the pedal company have both seemingly grown at the same time.
“I think that they must help each other out,” Ackermann says. “I don’t do too much crazy promotion with either.”
Ackermann has grown beyond pedals for A Place To Bury Strangers’ live show, building effects-loaded pre-amps and light controllers for the band’s performances.
Ackermann says the band builds “as much stuff as we can build and make them do what we want them to do.”
A lot of what gets made is based on Ackermann learning as he takes apart and rebuilds things to match up with the sounds in his head that he hopes to recreate.
Those imagined sounds have become a moving target too, as Ackermann’s musical taste mutates and changes.
“As time goes on, you forget or discover new sounds,” he says.
The dual successes of the band and Death By Audio are a culmination of Ackermann’s music career which started in the late 1990s in the Virginia-based band Skywave, which while bearing a similiar aesthetic to A Place To Bury Strangers didn’t meet anywhere near the same success.
“I would try so hard to book tours to no avail,” Ackermann says.
A Place To Bury Strangers w/ Hunters and Snake Island! play the Bourbon Theatre, 1415 O St. in Lincoln, Friday, July 20th at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance/$12 day-of-show. For more information, visit bourbontheatre.com.