rateonrafts

Back in 2012, I saw the newly-reformed Dutch, once Factory-signed outfit Minny Pops perform one of their first UK shows in 30 years. While Minny Pops were still the stark, minimal embodiment of the Factory aesthetic some decades on – all razor sharp outfits and even sharper guitar lines that shot out the PA like lasers into the ears – they had a bunch of antithetical rag tag kids with them in the way of support: Rotterdam’s Rats on Rafts. They were a screeching, incendiary assault that was all early Sonic Youth intensity wrapped up in post-rock euphoria without the oft-accompanying pomposity and then shat out with Fire Engines-like jagged, pull-push momentum. I eagerly waited to hear more from them and three years on their second album ‘Tape Hiss’ has arrived.

Maturity is a dirty word to use to describe sonic evolution, as it can rarely be applied without condescending insinuations, plus it also misses out on a crucial musical beauty in that both immaturity and naivety can be glorious assets to posses in the early stages of a career. That said, there is both a notable refining and expansion to be found on this record, one that takes hell-for-leather, foundation-cracking guitar expulsions and filters them through an album where those moments have their place as frequently (and as importantly) as the Glen Branca-like minimalism of ‘Last Day on Earth’ or the come down haze of ‘Zebradelic’. There’s never anything less than a feverish sense of urgency that courses through the guts of this record, but it’s a considered and measured urgency – one that allows natural, unhinged, explosiveness to burst through and sit delightfully alongside the more structured and textural rich explorations, the opening ‘Sleep Little Child’ perhaps being the greatest testament to this.

However, perhaps the ‘Tape Hiss’’s greatest consistency is its pacing. It’s a marvellously structured record that unfurls and drives continuously – there are twists and turns and ditches and pot holes along the route that veer the normal expectations of such a record, but it always feels like it’s going somewhere, reaching for something and hurtling towards a destination that – crucially – always feels unknown and unpredictable. By the time we do reach that end destination – the amplified, teeth-grinding chug of ‘1-6-8 (Machine)’ – Rats On Rafts don’t so much slow down and pull up to their terminal, but rather hammer their foot to the accelerator and drive straight off the end of a fucking cliff.

‘Tape Hiss’ is a record that even in its dying, final, sputtering last breath still seems intent on going somewhere. It’s emblematic of a record that’s full of ideas and ambitions as much as it is pure, snarling, gutsy musical discharges.

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