by Max Freedman (@anticlimaxwell)
‘The music industry’ seems to love pumping albums out of its artists on a roughly two-year rolling schedule. Maybe it’s figured something out: sure, The Beatles pumped out albums every year from 1963-1970 (and two albums each year 1963-1965 and 1969!), but look how quickly they called it quits. A record label might be able to make a good deal more profit if its artists are leaving space between albums, filling the gaps between by touring and exploiting fans’ thirst for more music, that secret pot of gold that keeps listeners invested in a band.
Warehouse has never played by music industry rules, so it comes as no surprise that Super Low arrives in the year following the band’s debut, Tesseract. About 19 months separate the two releases, but it really feels like they’re arriving back to back; this isn’t too shocking a look for an outfit whose newest music video was filmed by a certain Bandcamp superstar with something like 30 albums to her name in this decade alone. The short time between albums isn’t made to feel any larger by the fact that Warehouse’s sound hasn’t changed too drastically since they boldly charged onto the scene last year.
Here’s another thing Warehouse seems to know that many of its more industry-savvy peers might not: once you find a sound that works for you, sometimes it’s best just to stick with it. Whereas many widely beloved acts get by on dramatic sonic shifts between albums, some bands, especially younger ones, might do best to not jump too far out of their established boxes. To that end, Super Low’s precise strength is that it doesn’t derail Warehouse’s previous aesthetic so much as it polishes it with crisper production, slightly slower tempos, and more space for each instrumental layer to breathe.
Warehouse turned heads in 2015 with sharp, steely guitar lines and sneering, ghastly vocals stirred together in washed-out mix and master jobs. The deliberately rough-hewn mixing on Tesseract’s songs often acted as an instrument of its own; in contrast, Super Low’s production is of super high quality. If the thrill of past songs like “Omission” and “Mental Faculty” lay in how surprising it was for drums so tinny and straightforward to ground guitar and bass lines as complexly intertwined as vines overtaking a city balcony, then Super Low’s talent is letting light shine in to properly display what’s going on in each instrumental layer. “Audrey Home” shoots out guitar and bass interplay that’s practically bragging, and yet completely discernible thanks to the expert production here. It’s more rewarding than ever to hear Warehouse’s demented six-string matrimony on songs like “Exit Only,” which winds down the tempo and untangles the sonic knots that previously made Warehouse a purely cerebral, and not as stirringly emotive, experience.
This is all to say nothing of the notably changed role that Elaine Edenfield’s eternally impressive growl plays across Super Low. Edenfield’s done camouflaging the razor of her voice within the chaos of her bandmates’ sonic assault; Warehouse newcomers need look no further than lead Super Low single “Reservoir” to hear Edenfield humming confidently and with a brooding gorgeousness across verses lined with spikes. When she breaks out her signature snarl, a gritty hiss that will never escape Kim Gordon comparisons, over “Reservoir”’s chorus, it’s as commanding as ever without sounding thoroughly abrasive. “Arbitrarium V” is a class act in the new subtleties Edenfield explores with her vocal extremes, and “Modifier Analog” is a riveting display of her newly gained comfort in expressing her gravelliest tendencies in small, equally spaced bursts.
One reasonable complaint on Super Low is that, for all the progress Warehouse makes instrumentally and production-wise, the impact of Edenfield’s words might be lost in the cleanliness and clarity. It’s a point that seems fair at first, until one realizes that words are rarely of primary emotional significance to Edenfield and her Little Rascals, even on this new album made following the passing of Edenfield’s father. The highs of Tesseract’s songs arrived when Edenfield hit the most piercing swaths of her vocal range; the words she said during these moments were of secondary importance, which might be why they were rarely discernible. A clean-up job behind the mixing board and an average lesser BPM across Super Low doesn’t change the fact that words are just vessels for melody (or dissonance) in a Warehouse song. Warehouse expertly follows in suit with the noise tradition of valuing emotional appeal over literary merit without entirely forgoing the latter.
Or maybe it’s just that, as they’d have it, Warehouse defies easy description. What better way to defy music industry expectations than by releasing music that the media can’t really put the proper words to? Warehouse is a very fan-friendly experience: let your thoughts go and allow your body and mind experience the music for the visceral joyride it is. Even the shiniest and brightest of technological flourishes can’t detract from that innate urge to groove out to Warehouse’s ten newest songs.