A Corpse Wired for Sound

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Shapeshifting Floridian trio Merchandise continue to evade easy description, eschewing the glossy production of their previous effort as they continue to develop in a variety of directions. Where 2014's After the End immersed itself in late-'80s college rock glory, their follow-up, the slinky A Corpse Wired for Sound, has less obvious intentions. Named after a phrase from a J.G. Ballard short story, Corpse is mysterious, moody, and nearly gothic in atmosphere and texture. Ironically, this decidedly less slick effort marks Merchandise's first album recorded in a proper studio with locations split between Italy, Germany, and Florida. The drums are largely programmed and synths prevail on tracks like "Right Back to the Start" and "Silence," each song exploring a different avenue of loneliness and mourning time's passage. Frontman and chief songwriter Carson Cox immerses his crisp baritone in pools of reverb, effectively filtering its coolness as if through the lenses of his black Wayfarers. Echoes of Depeche Mode merge with swirling pop on "Shadow of the Truth," while lead single "Lonesome Sound" relies more on industrial-leaning, heavily processed guitar rock. The mostly acoustic "I Will Not Sleep Here," the lone track written by David Vassalotti, is a slow-building late-album highlight approaching seven minutes and concluding with an anthemic bang. In Merchandise's growing catalog, Corpse is both like and unlike anything they've done before. Their experimentation and artistic growth is the trend they pursue most doggedly with each release, though the sounds here won't be totally unfamiliar to fans of their previous albums. It's a tough act to consistently maintain, but they've delivered another artful, well-crafted release.

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