Melbourne, Australia-based New War rose from the ashes of singer Chris Pugmire and bassist Melissa Lock's former scrappy, dumpster punk outfit Shoplifting, but their self-titled debut album expands on the scratchy no wave approach of that band into a guitar-free patchwork of dubby post-punk. When compared to Shoplifting's jagged and arrhythmic sounds, the absence of guitar in New War can be felt hugely. While their earlier band sewed its oats like Huggy Bear channeling DNA, Lock & Pugmire draw out their basslines into minimal, two-note explorations and pad them with spare rhythms doused in reverb and hissing textural tones provided by keyboards and ambient sounds. The reference points for this particular sound are more easily placed on some songs than others. The wild rhythms of the Slits, the Pop Group, and Gang of Four show up throughout, with standout track "Ghostwalking" sounding like some updated amalgam of these bands and the eerie dub presence of Flowers of Romance-era P.I.L. Amazingly, the guitar-free New War manages to create enough skronk utilizing just ghostly Farfisa tones and various keyboards on tunes like "Game of Love" and the hypnotic "Revealer" to evoke the same ominous feelings of early Sonic Youth or even the Birthday Party's dark, cathartic hymns of noise. New War's spooky take on post-punk influences doesn't become complete revivalism by merit of the songwriting and varied production techniques that pop up as the album goes on. By the lengthy album closer "Josef's Hands," the band's simple Motorik churn becomes engulfed in blankets of subdued distortion, threatening to explode at any moment and held together only by the trails of tape echo and reverb that connect the elements of the song to each other in their tense, uncertain march toward the edge of a cliff.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas