Maybe because it seems like things are going quickly with Disappears, you might think that it’s a new group. But nothing could be further from the truth. Brian Case set it in motion in 2008, and after deciding to park his other projects, The Ponys and 90 Day Men, the Chicago band hit cruising speed. Soon they were joined by members of the defunct Boas, with whom they released their debut album, “Lux” in 2010; although it was going to come out at first on Touch and Go, it finally did so on Kranky, after the first label closed. There they started to show a mixture of garage and krautrock with a few psychedelic touches. Some songs were less than two minutes long and the longest was no longer than four. As a contrast to a work with more defined melodies and choruses, in 2011 they released “Guider”, which only had six cuts, one of which took up over half of the album, with a trip lasting more than a quarter of an hour. It was a more dense, elusive work, but equally effective as the previous one.
Shortly after releasing “Guider”, Steve Shelley joined them on the drums, and although it seemed that this would be a sporadic collaboration—like Chris Carter with Factory Floor in its day—in light of the long fallow spell that is coming with Sonic Youth, Shelley has decided to join the group as a fixed member. Now we have the third album, “Pre Language”, recorded in the Hoboken Echo Canyon studio owned by the authors of “Daydream Nation”, and mixed by the expert, well-paid hands of John Congleton (St. Vincent, Modest Mouse) after they have moulded the songs in their live performances.
In “Pre Language”, Disappears have clearly placed their bets on the sound of the first album. Although their selection of the tracklist might give the wrong idea. Placing “Replicate”, the best—as well as catchiest—song of the lot at the beginning might give you the idea that this album is taking the garage-rock tack of heading straight for the jugular, but there is more here to delve into. For example, “Joa”, the second-longest song that they have recorded, after the endless “Revisiting”, puts the six minutes that it lasts to very good use, offering one of those magnificent dark krautrock digressions that they had already displayed in previous works, where we barely hear Brian Case’s voice. When the voice does take over (like in “Hibernation Sickness”), it reminds us of that apathetic intonation of punk heroes like Iggy Pop and Mark E. Smith (The Fall).
The strumming of guitars in the beginning of the title piece reminds one strongly of No Age. Disappears are exploiting their cruder side here, playing the same type of well-developed melodies as always, mixed with aggressive instrumentation. The parallel that is the easiest to draw here for those who haven’t heard their previous albums is Sonic Youth, as if Steve Shelley were the main person responsible for the album’s sound. However, the truth is that this influence has always been present in the Chicago group. What they have managed to do is to squeeze the utmost out of Shelley’s skill on the drum, an instrument that is always right there in the foreground, with spectacular drumrolls. That is to say, Brian Case manages to make these songs sound better, but whether they are different from what they have done before or not is something else. The truth is that to greater or lesser extent, depending on the cut, they haven’t actually strayed very far from the coordinates of “Lux”. And at this stage of the game (their leader has been making music for over a decade and a half), that is something that one misses in “Pre Language”. It might be the only thing, but given the means placed at their disposal and mentioned above, much more should be asked of them.