The Italian punk trio His Electro Blue Voice, who’ve been active for the last decade, specialize in a brilliant mix of disconcerting abrasion, propulsive rhythm, and earworm hooks, all shot through with synth accents like shining silver thread. Though they’ve put out enough (stellar) singles to warrant a compilation, Mental Hoop is only the group’s second LP. Where their debut LP, Ruthless Sperm, contained some extremely solid songs but struggled for cohesion, Mental Hoop feels like a proper album. Halved not just by physical format but by two crystalline synth baubles (“Pool Cleaner” and “Pool Cleaner II”), this is a beast of an album that was built carefully and intentionally.
A long shadow lies across the band’s sound here, as if it was drafted with charcoal; there’s always been the slightest chilly goth touch to HEBV’s songs, and on Mental Hoop it’s just slightly exaggerated—though not so far as to lose the group’s essence. The riffs on “Jaws” and “The Wizz” gleam with the same chrome as mid-’80s Killing Joke, but even those poppiest of tracks are still folded under distorted haze. The magnificent “Scum Rat” has enough scrambled solos and woozy discordancy to make its eventual fall off a precipice (the whole last minute of the song is deeply damaged dark psychedelic noise) feel like its logical conclusion, and the 12-minute “Onieut,” which closes out Mental Hoop, vamps on the odd beauty at the heart of that sort of wildness. Playful but powerful, Mental Hoop is the most expertly controlled chaos.