Album of the Day: Drahla, “Useless Coordinates”

On their debut full-length Useless Coordinates, London-via-Leeds trio Drahla take post-punk’s characteristic noisiness and find a way to make it even harsher. The strained drum roll that opens the album serves as a terse processional. The songs that follow—the bellicose call-to-arms “Gilded Cloud” and “Serenity,” both of which are pierced by screeching electric guitars and dissonant bass—make good on that stentorian opening. Drahla have plenty they want to champion on Useless Coordinates, beginning with their own growth. “I will make no apology for slipping into serenity,” says singer-guitarist Luciel Brown. Later, she turns that phrase into an order, shouting it as if she’s standing in front of a mirror, demanding she cut herself some slack.

Elsewhere, the trio try out krautrock-inspired crescendos and cacophonous experimentation. Brown’s vocal and guitar work recall the wiry punch of Priests, Mike Ainsley drums as if dicing the uptempo art-punk of Shopping, and Rob Riggs coaxes a guttural tone from his bass that calls to mind prime Jesus Lizard. Their combined efforts result in tracks like “Stimulus for Living” and “Twelve Divisions of the Day” where, instead of simply hurling themselves against a quickening tempo as their instruments buck heads, they repeatedly change directions, leaving room for undirected solos or big blocks of silence.

Their best moments make use of a squealing saxophone, courtesy of Christopher Duffin. “React/Revolt” begins like simmering improvisational jazz, all hushed bass and exhausted cymbals. Halfway through, the band reveal what they’ve been hiding: ample energy, colossal cheers, and braided guitar lines. That’s the fun of Useless Coordinates: It’s as if Drahla dropped themselves in the center of a stylistic labyrinth and began clawing their way out—never losing steam, exploring almost every route along the way.

-Nina Corcoran

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