by Mike LeSuer (@zebraabraham)
Dirtnap is the name of a record label, but, as so frequently becomes the case, the name also classifies a specific sound which the label cranks out on the regular. You can typically identify members of Dirtnap’s roster as such from their neat, modest, micro-punk compositions which take cues from the flourishing garage rock scenes of Denton, Memphis, or Louisville rather than the ever-trending Bay Area, Brooklyn, or Austin hubs. As one of the posterbands of the label’s modern era, Mind Spiders are a perfect example of the muted energy the label expels, channeling their unmistakably punk ethos through calculated rhythm guitar and a moderate dose of feedback.
With their last two releases, though, it’s become less necessary to refer back to frontman Mark Ryan’s previous work with The Marked Men, not only due to the Spiders’ cult status eclipsing that of his previous band, but also because of the decreasing relevance his newer project bears to the seminal garage punk quartet—and with the release of their fifth and latest record: to their label more broadly. Although barely over half an hour, Furies (that’s one “r”) is an ambitious collection of spitfires inspired by the vengeful Greek deities of its title, concentrated to a downsized band of three following the departure of multi-instrumentalist Daniel Fried (“Mind Insects” may be a more apt name moving forward).
Dealing in B-movie aesthetics since their 2011 debut, Mark’s men began adjusting their tracking on 2016’s Prosthesis, which saw a notable shift from a campy ‘50s sci-fi feature to a synth-driven homage to John Carpenter’s soundtracks of the ‘70s and early ‘80s (notice Furies’ claim to the band’s first cover art in technicolor). On Furies, the dizzying one-of-us trances the group would occasionally achieve on previous releases (“Neurotic Gold,” “Wait for Us”) have morphed into a hearty electronic pulse, which engulfs several of the album’s eight tracks. While “Never Like That” and “Shock and Repeat” do so with a prominent and familiar backing from Ryan’s guitar, it’s Peter Salisbury’s alien synths which dominate the album’s final act: “Furies,” “No Ground,” and the expansive instrumental closer, “August.”
But above all, Furies feels eerily contemporary—the flitty synth chirps and throbbing electronic undercurrent on “No Ground” shares more in common with LCD Soundsystem than any of James Murphy’s sleeve-dwelling influences, while “August”’s total immersion in dark ambience recalls the climax of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Good Time soundtrack before harkening any Tangerine Dream or Vangelis compositions. The chilly post-punk of “Ice Bear”—a not entirely faithful cover of the homonymous Grauzone track—may be the only instance of total anachronism on the record, though Ryan and company seem more concerned with developing the band than adopting a totally new persona.
That said, Furies is still very much a Mind Spiders record even if it ducks the Dirtnap tag. This progress is most succinctly presented on lead single and album opener “Outside,” which subtly builds up to one of the band’s most enthralling apotheoses. Though the trio are hardly recognizable by the album’s end, there’s plenty of anticipation for where they’re headed next. If we’re lucky, perhaps they’ll help David Gordon Green usher in a new wave of tolerable Carpenter remakes.