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Talk Normal - Secret Cog

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Artist: Talk Normal

Album: Secret Cog

Label: self-released

Review date: Apr. 3, 2009

On this five-song E.P., Brooklyn-based duo Talk Normal – drummer Andrya Ambro and guitarist Sarah Register – create a nice racket that does a deft job of splitting the difference between harsh sonics and the essential song-oriented structures required of noise rock. Neither a band in which noise is merely a bi-product of a savage attack nor an overtly experimental outfit steeped in this or that high concept, Talk Normal come off as an organic self-contained unit that extracts as much as they can from their explicitly minimal approach. Sure, there are some obvious touchstones here – Sonic Youth, Magik Markers, Ut, Teenage Jesus – but the songs never feel derivative.

Though various sorts of processed sounds work their way in and out of the picture, the band’s aesthetic is built on a basic foundation of guitars, drums and vocals. The duo are clearly working within a dark, neo-now wave framework, yet there‘s some variety, too. They can sound both hyper and dirgey, calling to mind heat-soaked basement shows and cold moldy practice spaces alike. “Grinnin’ in Your Face” opens the album and establishes the Talk Normal template, squiggling moans of feedback, a simple lurching riff, and a dual vocal attack all buoyed by frenetic drumming. “Eureka” then uses a Branca-style guitarscape as foundation for a sing-speak vocal monologue direct from early ’80s downtown NYC. “Lemonade” rides a catchy little groove early on, and then builds to a drum-guitar/freak-out zenith.

Perhaps the most curious aspect of these tracks, however, is that despite whatever stabs of sound punctuate the atmosphere, or whatever structural shifts might occur, there’s always a simple, repetitive pulse present, not so much an anchor as a telltale heart of suppressed aggression. Even on the set’s most distinctive track, the stark finale “Rest With Me,” there’s a tension lurking, played out via a subtle, yet insidious throb.

Talk Normal are making their music amidst an increasingly cluttered underground landscape, and the duo’s seeming intrepidness in the face of that fact shines through. They’ve cultivated their own voice that, when combined with that strange festering energy, should make for solid stuff with each successive release.

By Nate Knaebel

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