It was always going to be tough following up a record like "Remains." For me the Religious Knives trio of Double Leopards' Maya Miller and Mike Bernstein and Mouthus stick-man Nate Nelson were at the top of their game with that disc, bringing to mind the finest elements of early Popol Vuh and blending that with a roominess, a sense of outsider bliss which was impossible for me not to fall in love with. It was the sound I'd always wanted from Double Leopards welded seamlessly with the kind of percussion that wouldn't be out of place on a Sublime Frequencies collection, and in that the Knives had become almost their own sub-genre. Strangely then for their second long player the band have tripped almost headlong into a world of heroin-soaked fuzz-rock - a sound not too many hops, skips and jumps from a Morrisson-less Doors or even The Stooges.
Those of us who managed to lay our grubby mitts on the stunning "In Brooklyn After Dark" 12" last year will already have an inkling at the sound they're approaching, and indeed that track pops up as the extended introduction to "It's After Dark." Grimy, fractured and primal, this is music that sounds as if it's been recorded in a basement as a near psychotic Abel Ferrara frustratedly attempts to daub oil on canvas in the room above. There are plenty of links here to the trendy and recently re-emerged no-wave scene Sonic Youth so proudly represent, but somehow the trio manage to sidestep this faddishness. It was a track that surprised me at the time simply for the fact that it was so different from their previous work, but a track that has elevated with each play, and one which sounds infinitely better when you crank the amps up to eleven. From this extended introduction however the Knives' sound creeps and crawls mutatedly around the psychedelic rock genre with dashes at smudgy, drugged out half-tempo balladeering, fat organ-led grooves and even nods toward the rock-pop flourishes of the equally genre-bending Magik Markers. It doesn't always work either; occasionally the single-mindedness we became so accustomed to on tracks such as "Bind Them" is fractured to give way to a rare fragility. The fog breaks for a moment
and our suspension of disbelief is broken, the band become mortal for a second - vocals cracking and silence becoming dead air. This is however exactly what makes "It's After Dark" a totally different beast from it's predecessor, a brave record which almost resets the band in my mind at least giving them a set of rock 'n roll credentials they possibly never had before.
"It's After Dark" is precisely that, music to sit awkwardly in-between you and that nerdy girl in the over-washed X-Ray Spex tee shirt as you sip on a cheap bourbon and give out wry, uncaring smiles, music to accompany you as you wander alone back from the show wondering silently whether she even gave a fuck. It is music for mixtapes and heartbreaks and exactly the kind of noise the tiresome blogosphere needs to replace their ill-founded adoration of the Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear. Don't believe me? Flick over to "It's Hot" and play it three times. you can almost imagine Iggy Pop himself crawling around the corner, limbs flayed as he dribbles a chemical-rich saliva over your new rug. Give the ten-minute epic "Noontime" some airing and you'll be sinking hopelessly into the whirling synthesizers and chanted vocals with scant regard for the consequences, and it's around this time you realize that there's simply nobody else like Religious Knives. Fuck the genres; New Weird America? Noise? Psychedelia? This is good, old fashioned American rock music, and sure, the band might not have got it entirely right - but that's what makes them so damn good and what forces you to remember why you fell in love with music in the first place. Just remember this ain't an album for the attention deficit generation, you need to listen more than once - trust me, in about six months this will have gone from 9/10 to 10/10. 9/10 -- Dakota Block (12 February, 2008)