Album Review: Drahla- Useless Coordinates

Leeds has existed as the hotbed for the post-punk in musical history, most famously producing bands such as Gang As Four, back in the ’70s. This reverberating anarchic DIY feel has permeated throughout the city ever since. Drahla have since become a band that has carried on this beacon over the past through years, creating a raucous with their jagged and experimental post-punk sound.

Despite their sound encompassing the indulgent experimentalism of early Sonic Youth and the bassline led sound of Joy Division, they have managed to stray away from imitation. The album feels like their own latitude for experimentation. Each song on Useless Coordinates explores a different sonic soundscape, as the three-piece craft melodies which are both dissociative and oddly catchy.

‘Gilded Cloud’ is the slow-burning opening, entering with a jagged wall of sound which cuts the ear like a shredder. Lead singer Brown sings “Life has been a dream to me/ As I have once heard”, with her lyrics exploring the ethereal crossed with the mundanity of modern life. Just as you’ve been drawn into the mysticism of their sound, the opening track comes to a caesura, and you’re thrown into another three minutes of perusal. But this is a positive thing, it’s wildly capricious and endlessly endearing.

Beginning with discordant guitar work, it moves into some heavier guitar work as Brown sings “I will make no apology for slipping into serenity”. Serenity has you slipping into just that state, before throwing you off balance with the trickery of discordance. The track explores the quiet/loud technique of punk bands such as Pixies, but doing it in a way which is not at all derivative. Pyramid Estate showcases some of Brown’s best lyricism, as she expresses “Ancient Egypt in the palm of my hand”, given momentum by its rousing bass. The sax of non-member Chris Duffin enters schizophrenically, and cohesively the instrumentation creates a depiction of the chaos of the human psyche.

Lead single ‘Stimulus for Living’ moves into darker territory, with the integration of a cowbell creating a dejectedly ominous feel. The refrain of “Stimulus For Living” is both sensual, with an undertone of stark bitterness, as Brown explores modern day topics such as consumerism in her own abstract lyrical style. Lyrics such as “Have you ever seen the sun in cellophane?”, combine the natural with the material, expressing how consumerism is damaging to the environment. Sonically it’s reminiscent of Sonic Youth Evol era, in the way it can make the chaotic seem melodic. Like boiling pan with the lid on, their sound almost seems like it’s going to bubble into pandemonium but never quite does.

‘React/Revolt’ has the chaotic free-jazz style saxophone reaching a point of near lunacy, exploring “Hypnotised dejection inducing interception”. While ‘Primitive Rhythm’ and ‘Serotonin Level’ has a more deceptively pop sound, which is the most accessible that Drahla ever becomes on the album. But there’s only so far you can go with being accessible, and Drahla is willing to push the boundaries of this.

‘Twelve Division Of The Day’ is heavily bass driven, becoming the adhesive that holds the wandering instrumentation together.  ‘Unwound’ begins with more summery guitars, with the backing vocals whispering in your ear like a sensuous devil on your shoulder. The closer’ Invisible Sex’ plays with tempo, entering the surrealist; visually think Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’.

In their debut Drahla have used the listener as their very own test subject, taking the influence of post-punk from the past. Though wear it is easy to slip into imitation, they manage to construct an album which is refreshing, and compelling to listen to. This is a band that is only getting started, and are gradually honing themselves into masters of their craft.

Useless Coordinates is out now via Captured Tracks, available to purchase here.