Wax Chattels Pack Invigorating Guitar-less Noise Rock On Their Abrasive New LP

Clot — the latest album from the New Zealand noise rock crew Wax Chattels — sounds ferocious.

Wax Chattels, who are a trio, do not include a guitar in their music. Instead, their sound is made up by a bass guitar, keyboard, and a two-piece drum set — but the band’s music does not sound thin, at all. Rather, the band present an ominous storm cloud of sound, with a fire hose of unease and intensity from each of their elements. Erratic, caustic rhythms burst forth and quickly clash against each other, with distortion and what sounds like plenty of amplifier energy helping fill out the sound.

The record feels like a peek inside mental chaos. The group utilizes methodical (and sometimes somewhat industrialized-feeling) lacerating rhythms that feel like they’re falling atop one another as if the music packs the soundtrack for urban decay driven by corporate greed via the music’s uneasy tumult. That’s not where the band ends their craft, however — there’s also an alluring exuberance. The confrontational element in the music feels kind of freeing, like the release has been a long time coming. Imagine a street-side that’s half-filled with abandoned storefronts and that’s filled up the rest of the way with shops that bear obvious signs of neglect — and then imagine a spot amidst the haze with a brightly lit, vibrant party for the forgotten, and you’re well on your way to what Clot sounds like.

The music on Clot carries a sense of desperation, with rhythms that feel like they’re leaping towards the listener and an overall presentation that feels disjointed yet, crucially, organic. There’s a free-flowing current of cathartic energy amidst the abrasion that essentially never lets up, and this element gives the music a strangely and perhaps startlingly bright feel, like there’s something truly blissful here. It’s not just dancing in the rain, although that would be great too — listening to the record feels like rushing headfirst into a crumbling building, with little but the thrill of adrenaline as a guide.

The music feels undeniably intense — yet breathable and cathartic, without sacrificing pretty much any heaviness. In fact, the contrast itself between the more cathartic elements and the heavier blasts can feel jarring. Each side carries monumental weight, with lightning strikes of bass groove (like on the track “Mindfulness”) and a frequent drum-led cacophony (like on the track “Cede”) that are tied together by richly dynamic energy.

There’s a krautrock vibe when the band leans into repeated rhythms at moments like the track “Efficiency,” but there’s consistently more simmering unease than one might expect with that approach. “Glue,” meanwhile, which opens the album, kicks off with a driving cascade of drum rhythm, like musical whitewater rapids. Album closer “You Were Right” features a kind of soulful pulse in the heavy rhythms, as if cruising into grime-soaked triumph.

5/5 Stars

Listen to Clot below! Its U.S. distribution is handled by Captured Tracks, while Flying Nun Records covers New Zealand.