Screature – Screature

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Sacramento quartet Screature recorded its eponymous debut live with Chris Woodhouse at reputable studio The Hangar. Live, as in all instruments were recorded at once as the group played together, even the vocals. Only three tracks feature guitar overdubs. The result is a testament to the benefits of such technique. For early rock, live was practically the only means for a group to record, and emphasis on players’ feel, intuition and attention to meta-nuance constituting a groove was a necessity. Since the advent of multi-tracking, live recording techniques are often considered novel. It’s not necessarily beneficial for every band or particular styles, but Screature’s menacing, goth-inflected punk reaps the rewards of live recording. It’s difficult to imagine vocalist Liz Mahoney conjuring the same terror and desperation in a sterile vocal booth while her band mates stare from the control room. Her emphatic delivery is as much a response to her band-mates’ live instrumental expression as to the lyrical themes of decay, waiting and dystopian allegory. The rhythm section, which couples trap kit with organ in the role of bass guitar, captures the insistence of Screature’s live shows as well.

Screature’s full-length debut offers savage rave-ups and bleak theatrics reminiscent of 1980s gothic punk from Southern California like Red Scare, 45 Grave and Legal Weapon. Particularly the latter, for Screature’s vocalist Liz Mahoney evokes the husky styling of Kat Arthur. Indeed, comparing Mahoney to Siouxsie Sioux would insult Screature’s obvious familiarity with the fragmented off-shoots of goth, post-punk and death rock. Mahoney’s endeavors in performance art inform Screature’s more dramatic moments. “Last Day” encapsulates her doomsday foreboding particularly well in a spoken outro where she utters “they sat me down / and they asked me / and I replied / I wish they were all dead / I wish they were all dead…” She repeats the generalized misanthropic declaration with the conviction of a learned role-player. Similarly, on “EVP” Mahoney conjures hysterical laughter with a cabaret flare.

Screature’s theatric indulgence never seems too cheeky or contrived, as 45 Grave or even Christian Death are guilty of. The songs are too grounded in creative riffs and sharp grooves. “Siren” showcases guitarist Christopher Orr’s maverick use of effects. He hardly ever creates dense noise, preferring to use pedals for eerily manipulating pitch, which achieves a siren-like effect on “Siren” where the technique is as essential to the guitar part as trebly riffing. Throughout the album, he deftly wields feedback to deliberately lacerate and grab attention, but shows his proficiency with ghoulish arpeggios at the right moments.

Most references for a band like Screature are arbitrary. Screature isn’t a pastiche project invented to pay homage to the past. Screature is the latest installment of a lineage. Screature isn’t a glorified postpunk covers band, as many accuse Savages of. The past is more accessible than ever and groups like Screature draw upon so many precedent groups that citing influences reveals more about my whims than anything. Goth theatrics mingle with 60s garage simplicity and brooding post-punk atmospherics all at once, which is why Mahoney doesn’t reflect Arthur or Dinah Cancer. Rather, Mahoney conjures the distress and grief that Cancer or Arthur are emblematic of. They drink from the same well, so to speak, or frequent the same velvet-curtain adorned cavernous cocktail lounge of the mind.