Album Review: Preoccupations – New Material

Words by Callum Sheppard

Change is effective. For better or worse, everything changes at one time or another. When it comes to music, the mere idea of it or the idea of someone adapting is enough for some fans to go mad. Remember when Kanye released 808s?

Preoccupations - New Material

For things to thrive in the future, musicians adapt. Once Christopher Reimer, the guitarist for then-defunct art rock group Women, had died in 2012, the band’s bassist Matt Flegel moved on with the introduction of Viet Cong. Since their debut in 2015, the group now known (thank God) as Preoccupations have produced successive explorations into what can only be described as synthetic industrial punk that Ellen Ripley would listen to.

Their latest offering, charmingly titled New Material, is a hauntingly eerie 36 minutes of sound. Create a picture of what someone would think the band sound like and it’s slowly shattered. At times it comes through slow and ponderous, with songs like ‘Doubt’ but when it’s a haze of darkness and exploration, especially on closer ‘Compliance’, you’re struck with a huge sense of gratitude.

As has been the case with their last two records, some of the best moments on New Material is when the instrumental takes centre stage. The opening drums on the introductory tracks ‘Espionage’ and ‘Decompose’ are startling beyond belief, whilst a heavenly contrast. The former sets the stage for what Preoccupations manage to perform across the album, a gorgeous albeit pain-etched construction of wonder.

Every song is littered with varying levels of conscious thought, whether the vocals cause that or not. You notice that most, again and again on album highlight and 2018’s saddest song so far ‘Disarray’. ‘Everything you’ve ever been told is a lie,’ sits in the chorus, and the line burrows away with every repeated listen and haunts you. I’d never be one to say that the band are well-known for their memorable or catchy songs, yet ‘Disarray’ takes on levels I’ve not seen from them since ‘Continental Shelf’ on their 2015 debut.

Preoccupations certainly aren’t one of those bands that you can define or engage with after only the first listen. However, they ensure that you go back, because if you even don’t understand it at first, New Material is a tale of intrigue and mystery that just can’t be forgotten.