Output Negative Space

  • Enablers
  • Neurot
  • 2006-03-20

This is the second album by San Franciscan post-rockers, Enablers, following 2004’s End Note. Their skeletal frame is provided by a guitar/bass/drums of Joe Goldring/Kevin Thompson/Yuma Joe Byrnes, who echo the scratchy avant rock of Slint, and this is augmented by the spoken work allusions of Pete Simonelli — a beat poet and darkside narrator. Though Enablers are a four-piece this is very much a one-plus-one dynamic: the sometimes-strained, sometimes-soothing guitars and rhythm section always complementing Simonelli’s dense narratives.

a song is likely to erupt into musical and lyrical vitriol any point

Most tracks concern the darker side of relationships and the bitter, painful battles between unnamed protagonists. The tone varies throughout, sometimes veering between the pensive third person (“watching the weather as I might watch myself in a dream”) and violent/surreal wordplay (“blazing through this fleshbath like a fucking lodestar”), but a sense of tension is constant — a feeling that a song is likely to erupt into musical and lyrical vitriol any point.

Simonelli’s delivery is great; the laconic, film noir drawl of Sam Spade crossed with Henry Rollins. The aforementioned Slint are a well thumbed reference to the overall sound, but also Shellac, Tom Waits (particularly “What’s He Building” from Mule Variations) and sometimes even early Arab Strap in its sparser moments.

sometimes even early Arab Strap in its sparser moments

Theirs is a niche sound, no doubt of that, but it is an interesting proposition. An intriguing marriage of forms. However, shorn of the kinetic connection between audience and band that’s a feature of Enablers’ live shows, Output Negative Space can seem one paced. And though that one pace is pretty good it lacks a hook (or perhaps a rusty nail) needed to snag the listener and place it beyond a curiosity.

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