Liberez is the brainchild of John Hannon, but he’s not alone in this endeavor, as he’s accompanied by Nina Bosnic (Paper Dollhouse) on vocals and Pete Wilkins on percussion. But it’s not that simple. The vocals are never direct; at times they are fragmented, at times looped, at times obscured. The percussion is similarly unpredictable; the drums range from elusive to tribal. Behind their contributions is Hannon’s sound design, which has always been abstract, but now offers new shards of accessibility.
On The Letter and Sane Men Surround, one had to wait for the dynamic payoff. The sonic peaks of “Atheist Rabble” and “What’s Mine Is Mine” are nestled in the center of their respective albums; but on All Tense Now Lax, no time is wasted. The 1:28 overture “Of Milk” (answered at album’s end with the longer “Of Blood”) is immediately followed by the violin and guitar storm of “_Захвална породица (“Grateful Family”), which is as tense as the album title implies. “419 Chop Your $” sets handclaps and bells against low spoken word and crunchy electronics, folded into a Bosnic loop: it’s just a game. The tonal clash works to the track’s advantage, keeping the listener off-balance. The final minute of the title track raises the pulse in preparation for “Grease the Axles”, a propulsion-driven beast of a lead single that would make a fine score for a high speed car crash. The whole band shines on this track, but it’s a showcase for Wilkins’ powerful percussion.
Each of the prior albums has included a track that can best be described as bizarre: “-Gag” on The Letter and “My Madness Offends” on Sane Men Surround. That duty falls here to “How Much For Your Brother”, which stomps around in heavy boots and demands recompense. Marked by distortion and squall, it’s a sign that Hannon refuses to compromise. Still, it’s the least abstract of the three, a dark cave with a welcome sign. Not everyone will want to enter, but at least it’s not closed.
As the album draws to a close, the tension eases, again reflecting the title; but here, lax does not mean relaxed as much as it means loose: ready to head in any direction it desires. The tonal shift seems to represent the sound artist himself, whose decision to crack the blinds a bit on the new album has resulted in a gorgeous refraction of light. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 24 July