Detenzione – Vol. 1 (review)

July 6, 2017 by Peter Woods

Vol. I by Detenzione is one of those chameleonic records that changes shape depending on the lens you view it through. There’s a level of subtlety here that allows for these multiple hearings. A punk record for sure, but one that breaks multiple conventions just below the surface without allowing those variations to disrupt the essence of what a punk album should sound like. So you can listen to it as a hardcore album and allow those variations to come as surprises, or you can come from a post-rock(esque) angle and get swept up in the power that exists as you track the twists and turns throughout the record. And those are just two of the many ways listen to this prismatic release.

Opening track “Built to Break” exemplifies this tension between genre classification and structural experimentation. The opening riff comes off pretty straight forward, hitting the listener with equal parts heavy and catchy. It’s a quick riff and you hear it four times. Like you should. But the turn around that turns into a bridge and a chorus simultaneously twists and turns through about as many melodic alleys as you can cram into the ten or so seconds before that opening riff somehow re-enters unnoticed. And that’s just the start.

The head scratching nature of this first track embeds itself heavily within the rest of the record, pulling the listener into slithering riffs, unrelenting and surprisingly complex drum parts and enigmatic barks only to casually toss out some straight ahead rager for seven seconds like it was nothing. “New American Dreams” feels like the auditory equivalent of riding shotgun to a teenager as they drive onto the highway for the first time, jerking forward and stopping suddenly over and over through heavy traffic until they finally hit an open stretch of asphalt and floor it. “Lurkers” layers squalls of feedback over a bass line that could have been pulled directly from a Pixies record, building to a massive climax that never actually arrives, leaving nothing but tension filled shoulders in anyone who listens. Every other track follows suit, sounding vaguely familiar but somehow completely new.

Which brings me to the lens that I cannot shake whenever I listen. While the world shook as a seemingly endless string of beloved celebrities died in 2016, Milwaukee’s DIY scene suffered a similar blow as multiple friends passed away within a similar stretch of time. According to guitarist Eric Mayer, the band formed shortly after Sammie-Jo Wilsing (one of the many people we lost that year) passed away and the wealth of emotions that came from that loss exists within these songs. The anger, confusion, loss, and feeling that everything is weird in the worst way possible that accompanies an emotional blow like that comes in fits and spurts as the record unfolds.

And somehow, despite, the highly personal effect Sammie-Jo’s death (or, really, the death of any close friend) had on so many of us, it all feels somehow familiar. We’ve been to the funerals of relatives, staring into the eyes of an almost stranger lying in a casket and hearing the sobs of those who did surround us. We know what death feels like. We know what it looks like. But when it hits so close to home it feels completely different. When you unpack that tragic moment, one you have heard about so many times happening to strangers, you realize how totally weird and foreign and unforgiving death truly is. Even for those who have been through the death of a close friend multiple times, I imagine it feels different every go around. Somehow the same and completely different.

This is where the beauty of this record truly shines. The lyrics may come from a different place, covering everything from the obnoxious foundations of consumer culture to the phenomenon of out-spoken male allies being a bunch of shitty rapists, but the music speaks directly to that experience of mourning. A record that feels both intensely familiar and unfamiliar simultaneously, like death itself.

Editor’s Note:
This is a guest post by Peter Woods. Peter may write again for us in the future, but for now nothing is planned.

About The Author: Peter Woods