Who the fuck are 156/Silence?! I feel late to an incredible party that I should have been well aware of before now. As of a few days ago, 156/Silence are the newest signee for SharpTone Records, and they have a deluxe version of their Irrational Pull album on the way (releasing 27th November). Though it has been some time since the album’s original release in June, I wanted to get to know who the Pittsburgh band are via a deep dive into Irrational Pull.
We arrive in the album’s first track (“High Dive in a Low Well”) and a breathless kind of alarm stirs up with disorienting, ringing riffs and a progressive static sink. Dense and monotone vocals and (delectably toned) drums paint a bleak picture of someone suffering amid the noise. It’s a dark place to begin an album.. and I’m down for it.
Leaping into frustration, desperation-tinged vocals throw observations at the person in question, and I’m feeling in over my head with mammoth riffs; it’s as if I’m drowning along with the antagonist who is threatening to pull everyone else down with their problems. Shoving away for distance, it’s bass-drenched monotony which seems to highlight how long this situation has been going on.
Sounding as calamitous as its lyrics, the mental spiral and pressure is obvious, and I’m torn between feeling into the messiness of the situation the song is capturing OR sinking into how great the groove is – with both feeling relevant.
Hovering at the precipice, the song’s end sees a severing of ties with blunt force rhythms and alarm. The panic peaks, with beautifully tragic descriptions like “I watched your wings cleaved off of your skin, I saw the ceiling sinking on you and me” given additional crushing weight with the combination of voices.
Squeals and a disintegration of composure in slowing rhythm are a perfect way to see all of this description of someone’s undoing come to an end. Only one track in and I’m already all heart eyes emoji at how well this has been done.
Threatening from its introduction on, second track “God’s Departure” continues this sense of limping along at first, before drifting into an unexpected moment of bass-heavy ease. Like a pendulum swinging, the song panics and settles, sifting through the ashes of life and with the stream-of-thought lyricism seeming to steer all of it. Like the wild unease that’s described, guitar squeals couple with erratic rhythms and the sense of being suspended and then collapsing heavily.
The songs come across as stories, where the eerie arrival of a whispery “God has gone” filtering through my ears somehow makes perfect sense. The stomping and helpless end of the track captures breathy realness of emotion. “Abysmal distortions” is attacked to fit into the structure – but doesn’t – which actually works perfectly for this square peg’s desperation to sink into a round hole. I take from the song a deep and painful inability to fit or feel at home here.
I quickly fall in love with the timing of “Taste of Ashes” and its instrumental waves of chaos and concern. The love turns to adoration when spoken confessional lyrics explode into a yearning wildness. The unbridled emotion is mindblowing as is the captivating rise and fall painted by ocean-like guitar.
With a paring back, it’s tough to look raw regret in the eye, which soon deflates into a palpable wild flailing with tag-team vocals. Heart-sinking and waltzy, the earlier chaos is momentarily absent while endless waiting bleeds out. It’s absolutely dreamy to be sonically/emotionally swept away by, as defeated as it is.
Rougher and rawer then, but with delectable vocal rhythms and a ‘something’s coming’ promise, “Taste of Ashes” surrenders into a heavily shackled finish, with only high guitar accents (and a piercing end) punctuating the punishment. I think “Fuck yes!” escaped my lips here.
Buzzing and building at first, “Upset, Unfed” levels into a two-steppable pocket before commencing thunderous destruction. Searing and dense, the song speaks like a jettisoning of the useless, but is honestly fairly ambiguous of meaning. For all of its wild two-and-a-bit minute duration, the song vibes like a scruff-grabbing wake up call of a shake before a slow motion release.
“Lost Visual” is eerily beautiful as an echoey world that’s crafted by pensive melodies, swelling tones, and satisfying word choices seeped out defeatedly (Hellooo, “solacement”). But as I’m quickly coming to learn, there’s no point feeling comfortable in anything permanent in a 156/Silence sound. The cold openness is soon agitated and syllables hit home hard amongst menacing riffs.
Failure-riddled, the return to floaty dread extracts empathy in its capture of persistent pressure. The entire vibe is a captivating one. I find that each instrumental thread invites the listener to chase it, but the dynamic song quickly snaps those invitations shut as the story continues to build in pressured discontentment; every second that passes seeming more desperate to do something. A flaring and rich breakdown serves as a placeholder for whatever the ‘something’ is, and an intriguing sonic unraveling is its chaser, before a solemn return to the sentiment of the start.
‘Unrelenting’ would be a good word to sum up “Problem Addict” from its introduction that foreshadows the hardened mood it’ll soon deliver. Ginormous riffs set the stage, making room for a surprise combo of voice and bass to reveal the story of a “one trick pony trotting down a dirt road of disaster”, metaphorically speaking. While I’m not entirely sure of what’s being captured here specifically, the distaste is palpable and is enhanced by the tandem vocals that spit their observations.
Bass is the hero for “Problem Addict”, enhanced by curtains of guitar that rain down, with me needing to make essential mention of the song’s entire last minute that couldn’t be more crushing if it tried. Each syllable seems weightier than the next and is deftly enhanced by accents of climbing zig zag riffs and piercingly sharp heights.
Drum fire and intermittent collisions at the song’s introduction belie the satisfying fluidity that is soon to be found within “Conflict of Interest”. It’s as if the song begins at a turning point, where “the plot only sickens” (I love that play on words) and a decision is made to disconnect from the person in question. With captivating vocal rhythms set to a dreamy soundscape, with each instrument warranting its own individual listen and attention, we hear the bitter notes of departure that form whatever closure is to be found. Stormy and raining down, it’s a darkened and elevated ending to the antagonist.
Straight into “By a Thread – I Suspend”. I’m seasick in attempts to find grounding in this track, which can barely make up its mind by way of pace, rhythm, or timing, but somehow finds a synthy thread to coast upon for awhile, or be suspended upon, if you will.
Ducking and weaving, the song bristles in fury while also wanting detachment from the person in question. Seeming like a final word on the topic, the track narrows its sights to one wholeheartedly delivered “Don’t you fucking forget it, you cunt”. A hefty flailing ending to the track is tough to capture with words, with each element seeming to add its own version of the final say.
Huge and all-surrounding, “Irrational Pull” is flavoured by unexpected weirdness, where its combo of sounds is unlike anything I’d have expected to hear on this album; the dulled spoken voice (x 2), the dissonant twangs, the circular bass, the pulse-quickening nature of it. It’s as if very different parts from things that shouldn’t go together have found themselves aligned and the result is pure unease.
Guitar acts as saviour, shaking the bonds of weirdness and finding aggressive angles instead. The cross-ear moments and ongoing sense of panic don’t truly shake the unease though, and the song forms something of a cage around the listener. The screams of “let me go” coupled with the lyrical details of being consumed add to this feeling and picture and it’s pretty fucking overwhelming, in a good way.
It’s honestly all so weird that I find myself enamoured by it; its haunted nature perfectly captures what’s being described by the lyrics, and the sonic painting aptly matches the pull that the title describes. In the centre of this creation are vocals that seem to be growing with panicked intensity, while the haunting weirdness rolls onward.
With the repeated “let me go” calls seeming to be heard or maybe some other point being met, the song bleeds into bass blanketed moment of guitar ‘knives’ and amplification of everything.
An ending hum for “Irrational Pull” leaks into “Denouement”, and aside from random moments of brute force collision, the mood is an empty one – very fitting for the final track after a LOT of agitation before it. Completely unexpected singing swims amongst full-bodied seas of instrumentation at first, before it sinks backward and an almost too slow delivery of bleak thoughts drips toward the listener.
I’m moved far more than I expected I’d be, and as its title might suggest, the song is a finale and ending in more ways than one. With two voices combined, it speaks of death and notes for after their passing float out in these lyrics. Not all well wishing, the frustrated fire surfaces after a submerged moment.
Suicidally haunted, the heartwrenching song is raw as well as anthemic in its own way, and culminates in an unwavering expression like a trail of crumbs designed to be followed for understanding: “This depression is severing all of my aspirations to attain a life of happiness and leave without the shame that burdens me with lack of confidence and hatred. I disdain the way pain plays such a part in this, deterring me a way to carry on.”
Oh my god, what an album. I’ve lost count of how many times through these 10 tracks I came up against a jaw-dropping moment that had me pause and replay a section. Completely engaging the entire way through, I loved how each shift or change occurred to reflect what was shared by way of lyrics or theme, as opposed to randomness for randomness’ sake.
I personally would have loved to have understood the context of many of the lyrics, versus having the feeling of being at arm’s length to the truth of them. There’s some very real emotion here that I admire for its courage, but without any kind of anchoring, the songs could potentially blur into one another as one long piece of hate mail, whether directed to oneself or someone else. Regardless of this though, the lyrics are a gold mine for word lovers, while never seeing overdone by way of being poetic, if you get how I mean.
I feel at a loss of words to capture how brilliantly each element of this album shone at me, with regular moments of a particular instrument or voice pulling focus and doing a wowingly solid job, before sinking into the collective mix again. I’m shocked that today is the first time I’ve stumbled across this band, but it absolutely won’t be the last.
Completely engaging throughout, 156/Silence deliver authentic cuts of emotion in a wildly dynamic and highly skilled package, which sounds incredible.
I'd have loved to feel more connected to the themes/ideas/stories that inspired these songs.