Any band as prolific as Disappears -- who released four albums in as many years -- would grow and change quickly, but the revolving door behind the band's drum kit allowed the rest of the group to challenge themselves with each new set of songs. On Era, they continue the propulsive minimalism of the Kone EP, which was their first release with former Anatomy of Habit drummer Noah Ledger (previous drummer Steve Shelley left after making Pre Language due to touring conflicts). While Disappears have never been the showiest of bands to begin with, here they strip things down to the bare minimum and emphasize their stark post-punk roots. At times, Era's darkly hypnotic pull evokes the Soft Moon or the earliest work from Liars, and it's also reminiscent of the single-minded intensity Disappears showed on Lux, minus a few decibels. "Girl," which opens the album with four minutes of punishing riffage, is an anomaly, as though the band is getting the noise out of its system at the start. For the rest of the album, Brian Case and crew make the most of John Congleton's roomy production by focusing on their interplay -- always a Disappears strength -- rather than pedal-stomping star turns. On Kone, they explored and expanded three songs over the course of 30 minutes; the band doesn't dive quite as deep on Era, but it's hardly coincidental that many of the strongest moments here are also the longest. Chief among them is "Ultra," a subtly creepy excursion that leads with the rhythm section and pares the guitars down to taut plucking and jet-engine whooshes, teasing listeners with an outburst that never arrives for nearly ten minutes. Ledger is an economical and powerful presence, making him a good fit for the brooding vibe of the band's songs this time around. The band matches Case's threats, regrets, and recriminations with tumbling drums and shimmering guitars on the sinuous and sinister "Power" and conjures desolate vistas on "New House," where Case's mantra of "a new house in a new town" doesn't sound like much of a fresh start. This starkness feels so natural that it's something of a shock when the title track introduces an honest-to-goodness melody after so much focus on rhythm and texture. The best balance of Era's changes and the band's longstanding strengths might be "Elite Typical," which gives equal weight to the rhythm section's lock-grooves and the more abstract guitar playing they favor on this album as Case intones "you think about her all the time" so obsessively it sounds more like a command than an observation. Coming after the more accessible direction they took on Pre Language, the spareness they display here is all the more striking, but it's just another expression of the raw minimalism at which the band has always excelled. Era is another solid album; with the laser-like focus Disappears have, it's hard to imagine them delivering anything less.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares