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Wasteland - All Versus All

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Artist: Wasteland

Album: All Versus All

Label: Transparent

Review date: Jul. 18, 2006


Illustrations of treachery are not much fun to listen to. All Versus All is a weirdly refreshing antidote to the twee pseudo-commentaries of complacent rock that dominate much of independent music's landscape. Instead of making the end times happy times, Wasteland is making appropriate music for a world that looks darker with each passing day. And, in a way, it's comforting to know that someone is stepping up to this particular plate not with depression, but with a strong sense of controlled anger.

It's a very mad sound, hard to take at first. Layers and layers of offensive snippets cast off long ago and relegated to the likes of early-'90s Skinny Puppy are ubiquitous. The title track casts a spell of boiling torture-chamber echoes across the sound field, inducing terror and forewarning just how bad things are going to get. When they spin at clubs, the members of Wastelend i-Sound and DJ Scud (New Yorker and Londoner, respectively) are a bit better-known for their dark dubstep, but this is something completely different. While sublow frequencies and the slow, deliberate, cracking pace of dubstep are definitely here, they serve mostly as abstract templates for a handful of songs. Darkstep wobbles float around simple, sinister drum machines on cuts like "Technology," but unlike much of the UK's originators in dubstep, All Versus All feels like it's working only for itself instead of concerning itself with a certain audience, be it the dancefloor or the headphones.

A key element of the album is the construction and interplay of dark palettes of noise; most of the sounds are toneless and scratching. "Mavericks" paints a big, abstract picture with a rusty brush before it becomes structured via surreal and out-of place kick drums. The solid elements are quick to disappear, and the song leaves you in the company of chaos soon enough. At times, you feel a hint of a bassline kicking in, but it's few and far between, leaving you hungry for structure but sucked enough into the narrative that you feel obligated to see it through.

Perhaps the most challenging part of this already tough listen is the lack of closure; instead of wrapping up what has gone on throughout the course of a track, Wasteland tend to fizzle out, simply stripping back layer by layer what has been placed on the soundstage. In the end, nothing remains. In some cases (see "Radicalized"), Wasteland turn to deconstructions or introductions of foreign sounds to close out the song. The same can be said for the album as a whole after something of an intense buildup period, the album lacks a climax. It might be an understated exclamation point, though despair brought to full fruition, so that the end doesn't bring any answers to any of the album's questions. But what is there really left to say after the apocalypse?

By Trent Wolbe

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