Having been the bearer of ill tidings – that Liars’ Sisterworld isn’t the spectacular return to form we’ve long hoped for – it’s gratifying to know that there is a sisterworld out there, in which the long-departed rhythm section continue to excite, titillate and horrify. These Are Powers may not fill the Liars-shaped hole, exactly, but they aim to fill other ones you didn’t know you had. (Apologies for any lewdness… the press release has just informed me that the artwork is based on a fetishistic practice known as “sploshing”.)
For newcomers, These Are Powers would be Pat and Bill (on bass and beats) with Anna Barie (vocals), all of them manipulating electronics. 2.5 albums into their career, TAP are on a trajectory from one kind of filth to another; where the first album was a pummelling, post-hardcore, New York hellscape, with dirty production not far off Oneida and early Sonic Youth, the latest EP sees them delighting in slick sounds at once shiny and squelchy, synaesthetically evoking all the colours of a Britney Spears video, but without the tiresome predictability of mainstream pop. Lead track ‘Candyman’ takes a sped-up reggae beat, and sets Anna Barie yelping like Annabella Lwin from Bow Wow Wow. If only, you think, If only the lyrics were about drugs (like the classic Donovan song of the same name). Like licking a hallucinogenic toad, she sounds like she’s getting off on every fluid and excrescence leaking from her sugar-coated man/girl/lover.
Second track, ‘Gutterspaces’, slows it down and lets you savour the clear patterns of the melodica, like Moroccan palace architecture overhead, and then we’re back to the churning sleaze of ‘World Class Peoples’. The remixes are substantial re-workings, FYI, with added jungles of sampled sounds; more conventionally dance, for sure, but they might as well be new tracks. Maybe this is appealing because it takes that NYC-intellectual fascination with the sensuality of world music / Afro-Caribbean music, and instead of appropriating it and whitening it, or authenticating it with “actual native” collaborators (Gorillaz et alia), TAP parody the fetishization itself, to the N-th degree (like Beck on Midnite Vultures; like Prince; like Bow Wow Wow). With or without the inter-racial fantasies and projections of “sensuality”, These Are Powers really do make music you can feel, and that’s their achievement.