The Dutch noise rock group Rats On Rafts, whose music spins and contorts, sound like they’ve musically captured a fever dream on their sprawling new album with the fittingly lengthy title Excerpts From Chapter 3: The Mind Runs A Net Of Rabbit Paths.
Throughout the record, which is their third proper full-length as a unit, Rats On Rafts wander through a world full of what feels like flashing neon signs for bars and music venues that may or may not actually be open — or even real.
There’s a consistently off-kilter energy in the music, which often has a somewhat tart or sour punky tone, but the songs don’t sound particularly reflective of some kind of party or otherwise overtly jovial gathering. Instead, Rats On Rafts seem to chart a course of increasingly feverish desperation, as if sonically reflecting a journey of getting slung like a pinball between imposing vestiges of modern life with an inexplicable internal drive to exhaustedly run through an expansive cityscape.
The music combines a kind of personal accessibility with oftentimes ferocious energy, and the repeatedly bright but jarringly dejected and sometimes abrasive instrumentals flow like a musical stream of consciousness.
The drive in the music, which often leans into a repetitious kraut sensibility, feels relentless, which helps seriously amplify the sense of psychological unease. Even within the comparatively brighter moments, like the suddenly rather upbeat “Tokyo Music Experience,” there’s a sense of some kind of rot underneath the surface of the music’s world. Something isn’t right — the music’s journey feels like spinning on a merry-go-round as screws slowly loosen without any ability to actually stop the ride. There’s only a lurking and increasingly harried sense of an impending crash, and that sense of an impending crash — or of some kind of metaphysical wrongness — gets dragged out to wild extremes within the music of Rats On Rafts.
Rather than an always in-your-face presentation of metaphysical anxiety like that which can only be induced by the endless modern pressure to perform and hit the mark, the group drenches their creations in an array of disorienting flourishes that help establish an extra layer of tension in the push-and-pull between these more free-flowing moments and the foundational rhythmic unease. Although at moments like the tracks “The Rise And Fall Of The Plague” and “Where Is My Dream?” the group utilizes relatively straightforward riffing that sends streaks of electrifying energy through their work, there are also moments of straight-up noise, and “Second Born Child,” which appears towards the beginning of the journey, hinges on a resounding drum rhythm.
The album culminates, in part, with tracks 11 and 12, which are called “Part One: The Long Drought” and “Part Two: Crossing The Desert,” respectively. The instrumentals here get rather aggressive, as though finally coming unhinged from a rusty mooring and spiraling chaotically outward. Although there’s an imaginative bent in the lyrics — track five, “The Rise And Fall Of The Plague,” tells a tale of a subterfuge operation against oppressive governmental authorities, including facing secret agents — there’s also a personal edge. Excerpts From Chapter 3… feels like an illuminating yet hallucinatory exploration of oddity and the tension within it.
Listen to Excerpts From Chapter 3: The Mind Runs A Net Of Rabbit Paths below! It’s available via Fire Records.