Sacred Bones Records is a label, the way labels should be: a starkly rendered visual identity and a tangible presence behind the bands and music they release – one which, simultaneously, doesn’t dictate a set template in the awful way that some do. The unifier on Sacred Bones is more a case of attitude, of bringing together disparate artists – whether Jenny Hval or Psychic Ills, John Carpenter or Pharmakon – who have a strong musical intent and self-will, however that might play out in auditory practice. Of course, being open to such diversity can create problems: I’ve been regularly drawn to works by Sacred Bones, but with mixed outcomes and a certain caution each time I take a chance on the label’s denizens.
In the case of this new 12” by the duo Uniform, I was reminded of anarcho-punk legends Crass, and one of their most punishingly brilliant visions, ‘Asylum’, a howl so vicious the staff at the pressing plant downed tools and insisted on its removal from first pressings of The Feeding of the 5000. That’s a compliment. The lyric in particular I was reminded of was the bark of “warfare, warfare, warfare, warfare!” – those words could ring across this entire release and always sound perfectly in place. Ghosthouse is a thudding, gristled churn of electronic and analogue sound; the drum-machine is a neat throwback to the uncomplicated pound of early industrial, while the rushing, surging roar of static surrounding it feels simultaneously overpowering and somehow out-of-focus, out-of-touch. ‘Waiting Period’ deceives with an intro that blips and bloops around an atom bomb bass-drop before the grinding guitar kicks in and the snarling distorted vocals return us to confrontation. An air-raid siren is effortlessly overpowered by the weight of the music, serving as a thematic nudge that this music is more than just a soundtrack to aggro. ‘Symptom of the Universe’ feels like a halfway house between Atari Teenage Riot and their punk forebearers making furious sound at Dial House back in the early 80s.
Maybe times like these deserve a soundtrack that speaks both to the inarticulate dissatisfaction that has fuelled the triumphal grotesqueness currently assuming power in the U.S. and the horrified refusal of those opposed. If so, then depending on who’s listening, Uniform’s release could either be a victorious fanfare or a protest march.