Overproduction has the reputation of detoothing our monsters.
Paint it Black’s New Lexicon was not cheap or easy to produce. It involves the work of two renowned engineers whose studio history include Against Me!, Jets to Brazil, Jawbreaker and Texas is the Reason. But rest assured, it’s gritty, thunderous and ugly, just the way hardcore punk should be.
Rather than straining to re-create “lo-fi” in a studio, New Lexicon pushes the soundboard to the limit, bringing waves of crashing layers to the speakers. With little debate, this is their finest hour - or, half-hour, anyway. In keeping with punk classics from the Circle Jerks and the Descendents, New Lexicon’s 15 songs clock in at a dizzying total of 30 minutes, 26 seconds.
Frontman Dan Yemin says he hasn’t been this excited about a recording of his own since Lifetime’s landmark Hello Bastards.
New Lexicon, the group’s third full-length, marks Paint It Black’s first recording with new drummer Jared Shavelson (Hope Conspiracy, None More Black). Guest vocals from Jeff Pezati (Naked Raygun) appear on album closer “Shell Game Redux.” Still, many of the best surprises occur behind the scenes.
Tracked at J. Robbins’ Magpie Cage studio in Baltimore, MD., the album’s raw recording quakes with the same pulsing aggression as Modern Life is War or Black Cross. One of Robbins’ most aggressive hardcore albums to date, New Lexicon brings the bass to the forefront, rumbling with a distorted grit unseen since the Bad Brains ROIR sessions. (No, seriously.)
“Most indie or underground artists are guitar nuts, treating the bass as an afterthought,” says Yemin. “Especially with heavy music, everyone is obsessed with a thick guitar sound to sound aggressive. I’ve been frustrated with that for years.”
The solution? Take the recording to someone who unequivocally understands the importance of low end, someone with a punk background now working in hip hop: Oktopus of the apocalyptic hip hop duo Dalek. Known for his dark, cinematic production (think the GZA soundtracking the Exorcist), Oktopus samples and stretches the existing sounds of feedback, bass booms and cymbal crashes into haunting ambient interludes and serpentine waves trailing behind the buzz saw riffs.
Such studio effects could easily have gotten out of hand. But this is no attempt at “industrial-core” or a turntable-mosh disaster. Instead, disparate influences like Minor Threat, My Bloody Valentine, Swans, Deadguy and Mogwai merge together as a cohesive whole. Rather than gimmick, the co-production approach to New Lexicon aims at clarifying a brooding tone already at the heart of Paint It Black’s sound.