A collaborative and improvisational study featuring the talents of a dozen juicy friends.
released March 24, 2018
The product of intimate improvisational sessions with a dozen talented friends, Social Studies is our latest full-length offering of experimental exploration and collaborative revelation. Available to you now at last.
High quality 6-panel digipak featuring original artwork by Whisker available in April.
The participants on this recording are;
Sean Sanford, Jeff Liscombe, Don Piffalo, Billy Kurilko, Steve Kerchner, Justin Waters, George Pig-rodent, Sandy Pig-rodent, Jeremiah Boothe, Anthony Burgess, Matt Thomas, Maria Thomas, Leah Hart, Alex Hughes, Darryl Debarrel, W.W. Mud Duck
"Virginia’s ball-gagged, straightjacketed noise collective Human Services has been flipping my wig with a lobotomy made-to-order since their psycho-sonic 2012, Self-Titled debut. Bringing forth the kind of eruptive rage overload of noise-metal titans like Neurosis circa Enemy of the Sun through Times of Grace, Today is the Day during the freakfuck period that gave us the Self-Titled and Temple of the Morning Star, the early Rwake material up to and including Hell is a Door to the Sun, Throbbing Gristle, Merzbow, Circle, early 16 singles and anything else equally fucked and frightening, Human Services have carved a daunting swath across the extreme underground thanks to an admirable gaggle of releases that are damn near impossible to pin down exactly in terms of influences. And honestly, this troupe doesn’t really sound like ANY of the above bands. They sound like Human Services. I’ll tell you this much though…these guys scare the hell out of me.
Not so much a band as a mutated hive of like-minded collaborators now spanning at least sixteen veteran contributors, HS have delivered their finest hour with Social Studies. Led by madman Jeff Liscombe who has been with the group since its inception and he the man that brought his primal vocal violence and mental instrumentation to Ad Nauseam, Lunch and IGON, HS’s 7th LP Social Studies is easily going to go down as one of my favorite records this year and perhaps one of the most innards-stretching painful, apocalyptically experimental and melodic albums I’ve heard in the current decade. “Eavos Deceivos” is the audio equivalent to being date-rape drugged by a lunatic factory welder who torches the most sensitive parts of your body while you stay frozen in unconscious stasis telepathically begging for death. Warped, wraparound bass lines create an urgent rhythmic primacy that erodes n’ corrodes as cymbals and snares spray acidic smacks, scraping noise-guitar sandpapers your earholes shut, a chorale of prison inmate screams and roars echo the walls of your eternity and a million oscillating drones weave a synthetic signal decay through government surveillance satellites. Descending bass lines and forlorn melodic melancholy drapes across programmed percussion and Leah Hart’s gorgeous, dusky croons on “Rough Outing’s” trippy industrial drones; plummeting synthesizers, found percussion and layers upon layers of ambient black widow bites that poison the soul with fatal grace keep this withering web aurally together. It’s a powerful piece, managing to be as malice-ridden and menace-scabbed as its predecessor while being highly melodic and more entrancing than a hypnotist’s memory wipe watch.
Screeching tape loops ratchet up the tension to a harrowing, Rocky Mountain High thin air suffocation in “Reel Dollars for Jail-Eating Misprints” early Butthole Surfers’ inspired intro handshakes. The shuffling, almost bluegrass-y bass lick behind the rising cacophony even directly reminds one of J.D. Pinkus’ best work with everyone’s favorite fucked up, hanging 10, on a wave of diarrhea rockers. Mangle that aforementioned sleaze through a meatgrinder of hateful vocal atrocities, doom-strangled downtempo and hair-raising noise that rips off the epidermis and you’ve got some seriously psychotic shit not safe for work, children or pets. The pacing eventually hits a forceful, forward-trudging wallop, yielding an end result that’s very reminiscent of Institute’s underrated noise/doom/industrial masterpiece Two Shadows.
Crackling telephone static breaking up sounds like the suicide hotline went and killed itself when “A Long and Growing List” builds up a percussion battered, snare beaten kickoff into a dirty assembly line breakdown of crunchy, chugging, slug-fuckin’ metal riffs, throaty vocal bellows and gooey bass heft. The fetid, shambling stench of the guitar work reeks of Ministry’s Filth Pig taken to a whole loftier level without shedding any of the electronic elements. As disgusting as that era of Al’s work is, HS puts 10 coats of extra piss-stained paint on that old dilapidated crack shack period of Ministry’s mind distorting history. I think that’s a harmonica full of mescaline in the insufferably cool opening to “Conveyances for Every One,” though the track that comes your way is ultimately a terrifying story recital backed by concussive accents, ER/hospital waiting room chatter and a tale of crematory birth, animal possession and black magic rituals. The schizophrenic, padded walls of noise reach a peak spike during the story’s most pivotal n’ completely batshit insane parts. If being unnerved brings you pleasure, you’ve come to the right nuthouse. This tune’s sister incision “Win Lost” blends bad trip male/female vocal counterpoints, shrill alien transmitters, a mess of clanging and clattering battery, haunted bass-y drones and an ending of industrial grime by way of rat poisoned doom that sounds as if it’s on the very last legs of a life spent in squalor. A burning African rainforest of sweltering throb, vaguely fuzzy blues riffs chopped into firewood, chimes, termite infested vocal rot (one of my favorite performances from Jeff), 70s inflected electronic fugues and a dirty hard rockin’ sludge guitar romp renders “Lucky Lotto/Phantom Limbs” a fuckin masterwork of true infectious sleaze. Hell, there’s even a folky vibe like a sludge metal Comus…is that flute in there? Goddamn, I don’t know.
Desolation rules supreme on the drawn out western-tinged “Scenic Overviews/Common Response.” This is the last sound you hear in an old Dodge City church before a faceless, black-coated outlaw puts a bullet in your back. Dive-bombing feedback crashes into sparse harmonica/accordion drama that buzzes like flies over the bloated cow corpse bass rancor, hallucinatory Morricone-leaned guitar texturing and generous servings of reverb, delay and echo. Rasping death knell singing is akin to the devil himself reading your last rites as the wandering, lone wolf metallic murder sets its sights on the innocent. The largely acoustic nightmare folk of “Ablebody” feels akin to Scott Kelly’s solo work, Blood & Time or Angels of Light but it’s a few midnights darker than any of the above with drug-munchin’ distorted reality auxiliary vocals seemingly run through a possessed transistor radio that demonically cuts out at the track’s endpoint; ritualistic percussion, smoke-burnt blues-y vocals and demonic sampling all told over this showstopper’s journey. “Keeper/Quitter” vaults into action on a jazz-y, syncopated beat that’s joined Siamese twin style to free-form gutter guitar, soulful clean vocals and ever-flowing bass lines that walk all over and in between the corporeal confines that the hairy riffs territorially occupy. Scurrying, centipede twisted riffs ratchet up to a shitkicker climax of molten, sludgy hypermania and ghastly cymbal ghosting. Frenetic pacing is retained on the white lightning bass licks, dual guy/gal vocal chants, pagan tambourines and back-breaking polyrhythmic tom-tom thumpin’ of “Crushing Reality.” This is shit to smoke DMT to in the midst of a Grizzly Bear infested forest where nymphs and sprites engage in BDSM with recently fallen human spirits. Distorto-vocal psychosis and industrial glue holds together the brief acoustic-laced, musical henbane of “The Meating of Minds” as it collides into “Body of Water’s” Datura cocktail of sitars, cyclic percussion and invocation chants, leaving closer “All in the way” to penetrate virgin hymen in death throes of stabbing string sections (cello, violin), Norwegian darkness, propulsive tom filling that’s held aloft by surging bass lines and gritty, baritone vocal expulsions that avoid all manner of gothic cheese for some really fucked up n’ oppressive shit.
Social Studies is the pinnacle of Human Services’ constant, undeterred musical climb upward across a 90 degree mountain face. At any given point this music is in danger of falling to a body mutilating, bloody impalement on the jagged rocks below. Yet there is focus and poise, as the album unfolds in an interrupted arc that demands front to back listening. Perhaps I have spilled far too many words in writing this review but anything shorter felt like doing a grave injustice to a truly ambitious and threatening piece of work…highly, highly recommended. "
- Jay Snyder
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