Dial - Western Front [Ektro Records - 2012]After nearly 2 decades of kicking it, post-punk trio Dial return for their fourth full-length entitled “Western Front.” Dial comes from a respectable experimental rock lineage featuring members who have done time in such outfits as: God, Ut, Furious Pig and Het. Being a self-described band of nomads, spending time in the United States, France and Great Britain over the years they seemed to have picked up a variety sounds and genres to pull from.
The cover art presents a painting of a building with a smeared hazy appearance. It has the effect of a downtown city building masked by fog. It has a very airy quality that pairs well with the fuzzed out sound they achieve through this album.
“Western Front” opens with garage jam punctuated by fuzzed out guitars and vocal work by Jacqui Ham. It all remains mid-paced, and very stripped down. “Oui Window” highlights some crushing drum beats, which is the focus for the majority of the second track. Busted up drum machine beats, definitely low-fi, interplaying with Ham’s near spoken word style of vocal stylings. “Helium” brings out some of the band’s no wave influences, with some off-beat Sonic Youth-Esque guitar strokes.
Perhaps my favorite tack on the disc is “Silent Way” which sounds like a deconstructed take on the soundtrack of some spy thriller. It’s twilight and you’re on the prowl; trying to score some blow, a one night stand, or perhaps rob a convenience store. You need some noise for your nocturnal adventures and you can do no better than this track on constant repeat. Imagine taking Monty Norman’s Bond theme demolished by the likes of Contortions or DNA and layered with female spoken beat poetry. It’s a wild chill ride.
Track 7 “Induction” has a bit of an afro-centric vibe. The beats and overall sound could be a jam from a blaxploitation film, though thrown through the lo-fi blender. The rest of the album just kind of meanders for me, not really breaking from the their own conventions.
While I enjoyed the album enough, nothing about it really grabbed me. Despite some experimental flourishes, I feel like I’ve heard this before. And there’s nothing that really distinguishes this band from countless others I’ve seen with a similar sounding vibe at my local hipster pub. There were a number of tracks that almost made “Western Front” worth the price of admission, however the parts were far better than the sum for me. In any event, I bet Pitchfork would love these folksHal Harmon