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Everything eventually turns to dust. Everyone knows this, but few want to acknowledge that our time on this mortal coil is fleeting, preferring to remain in stasis, in hopes that “the end” will pass them by. Chicago trio FACS have been perfecting their brand of intense, cathartic art rock over the course of four ever-evolving albums. Beginning with 2017’s “Negative Houses” thru 2021’s landmark “Present Tense’, which saw the trio dig deep into the gaping maw of a black hole & pulling back whatever debris they could grasp onto. Their newest “Still Life In Decay” comes as an addendum to the last album – a “post-event review” if you will.
“Still Life In Decay” starts with a squall of white noise before collapsing into the band already locked into “Constellation”s lumbering groove, with Case’s guitar a ghostly presence, appearing & disappearing in washes of gauzy feedback throughout the track. FACS have never been more solidified as a unit, and “Still Life In Decay” is a decidedly focused effort. The apocalyptic chaos that defined their previous album “Present Tense” is waved away in favor of an examination of events with cumbrous clarity.
While FACS are a heavy band, they don’t necessarily feel like one— Case’s fluttering, melodic guitar lines are buoyed by the insistent, underlying pulse of an expert rhythm section. Bassist Alianna Kalaba, who stepped in for founding member Jonathan Van Herik in 2018, makes her amicable last stand here with the group. Alongside drummer Noah Leger, they dance and twist around each other like a double helix, forming the DNA of what makes FACS so special. Collectively they approach rhythm from outside the groove as opposed to inside it, creating a lattice where Case weaves guitar lines like creeping vines, making the moments on Still Life In Decay where the band locks in even more powerful. When the guitar punctures the lock-step swing of “When You Say”, it hits like a hammer. Case utilizes his lyrics like a person suffering from anterograde amnesia; repeating phrases & holding onto old memories in a desperate attempt to avoid the slide into oblivion. Freeform poetic missives touching on themes of resignation, cynicism, class warfare, and a search for identity & meaning in a crumbling society; A primal desire to hold onto anything in a post-pandemic barrage of sensory overload.
The album is a decidedly local affair; recorded once again at Chicago’s famed Electrical Audio by renowned engineer Sanford Parker & mixed at his Hypercube Studio in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood & mastered by Matthew Barnhart at Chicago Mastering Service.