PRISM #1 appeared out of thin air. This new St Louis hardcore punk outfit hasn’t played a single show in the city (as far as my information reaches) and has been together for only around a couple of months. The group is fronted by Lauren Tracy who used to perform with Big Pig and Black Panties, and backed by People Zoo’s Colin Ferguson on guitar, Sundowning’s Sarah Keefe on bass, and Body Leash’s Tyler Evans on drums. This quasi-super lineup was offered the chance to record at Native Sound with David Beeman and they took it real quick, wanting to have a release out for their first show in Little Rock, AR.
The result of this recording session is “CHANNELS OF UNLIMITED RESISTANCE”, PRISM #1’s debut EP. The presentation is interesting in its random versus thought out mentality. The album cover, for example, reconfirms the fact that this debut EP was put out using the desktop view of Bandcamp on a phone on the way to Little Rock for their first show. Conversely, the adamance to have album and artist titles capitalized versus the lower caps track list shows a bigger intention of concept that perhaps someone wouldn’t act upon in the middle of a road trip to a gig. I do find myself entranced by it– my obsession with organization and labeling makes me wonder whether the J-card shown is the actual album art or not, which has been driving me insane for a while.
On paper PRISM #1 is as straightforward as it can get: you get fast riffs, half time breakdowns, manic beats and a lot of feedback. I often sidestep a lot of hardcore bands because of their tendency to circle around the same usual sound and differentiate themselves from the pack solely through the antics and gimmicks of their front person rather than actual musical intention. PRISM #1 very well could land on this category if it wasn’t for the enchanting personality of the vocal work done by Lauren Tracy. This nasal, monotone and pulsating delivery vibrates violently on every track, painting the image of a persona keeping a straight face whilst shrouded in deep paranoia. This stylistic intention helps the songs harness a lot of personality and the band embrace their roots hardcore style with a twist.
In terms of sound the record is solid. David Beeman’s work left us with sharp drums, subtle guitar and bass work, and just the right amount of vocals. If I were to mention a gripe I’d probably turn and stare at the feedback that’s before and after pretty much every song on the release (and between when the guitar stops). It definitely helps the release sound rough around the edges and heavier, as if a grander force was being contained by the boundaries of the recording. However, the fact that the feedback is almost always the same pitch and that it’s obscenely louder than the guitar does get in the way of my enjoyment in certain moments of the run time. It’s a minor issue, but the monotony and volume of this line does make me miss silence a bit after the nth time it comes in.
I’ve always been partial to hardcore bands that strive to write songs, as opposed to simply presenting an aesthetic and playing unintelligible riffs really fast and loud. “CHANNELS” features a healthy mix of both situations, with real abrasive breaks in pretty much all the songs, but really tasteful and catchy moments to complement. Lauren’s vocals are key here, helping propel hypnotizing chorus lines that glue all the instrumentation together nicely aided by the fact that her lyrics are pretty much all hooks. The album opens with the slow chugging of “love is a cult”, atop which Lauren delivers an initial setup line as the music speeds up gradually to arrive at the second half, tinted by explosive drumming and fast riffs that bed a much more direct “get me out of it!” sung over and over. It’s simple but catchy and filled with personality, leaving me eager to dig for deeper meaning in the performance.
This simple approach of long, descriptive lyric followed by a simple, straightforward line is taken on plenty of tracks on the list, always for an immediately rewarding effect. Songs like “shake” manage to encompass strong, poignant emotion in one or two line of lyrics (“Don’t shake for him in the dark/don’t shake”), whereas other numbers like “selfish” play with words for more ambiguous interpretations (“are you selfish or are you selffull?”). The bridging factors here are that these short songs rely on very few lyrics to convey something meaningful, and that the rhythm, cadence and intensity of the delivery is always on point and insanely catchy. The instrumentation often aids the meaning by following the arc of narrative with its arrangement. Opportune tempo changes, instrumental breaks, palm muting and coordinated hits set up a perfect stage for these straightforward hooks to shine.
The highlight of the release rewards patience, as it happens later on in the track list. The two longest songs on here (both clocked at 1 minute and 29 seconds) play back to back towards the end of the EP and put forth perhaps the most infectious compositions on here. “selfish” starts the couplet up with a simple riff tail ended by tasteful hits when it loops which eventually double times, loops the hits and then double times the loop to set up enough tension for a fat half time hook release on the second half. Lauren demands hotel rooms and rental cars as the song pounds violently, switching up the style on the half time breakdown with a powerful “We don’t have to go far/and no one knows who we are”. “break” follows this song and is perhaps my favorite on “CHANNELS”. The verses prance in immediately after a short intro, and cleverly play with the meaning of the title by juxtaposing a break that you take and the idea of breaking, whether it’d be physically or emotionally. The hook resolves this dichotomy confidently and vibrantly with a manically performed “I don’t want to break”, which is developed for further interest by switching between saying “wanna” and “want to”, successfully implying an answer to both propositions put forth in the verses. The band shuts it down on the second hook with an extremely tactful switch to half time and the introduction of chunky, palm muted guitars that make me want to jump off a wall. It’s a monumental punk composition that doesn’t take itself too seriously but had my ears peeled the whole time.
“CHANNELS OF UNLIMITED RESISTANCE” is a solid debut for PRISM #1, and a must for any hardcore fan in the city. I will admit I bag on the style a lot, but the personality put forth by this new band on this EP is undeniable, successfully turning straightforward riffs and lyrics into intoxicating songs that reward multiple listens and attention paid. Some of the longer tracks on the release can overshadow the shorter numbers, but since song lengths here range from 47 seconds to one and a half minute the difference doesn’t feel too overt. The runtime of 12 minutes in 11 songs can cause certain tracks not to punch as hard as they’re intended to, but this short duration also inspires another go at the track list which often rewards the listener with elements that were perhaps missed on first listen. Despite minor flaws and lukewarm moments, PRISM #1 opens their career up with an intention and an identity, a hard thing to do for a band that has barely even played live. I am excited to see this new outfit grow– this debut is a high mark to start with and I’d love to see them push above and beyond.
Listen to “CHANNELS OF UNLIMITED RESISTANCE” via Bandcamp down below: