Algiers is a transcontinental trio of multi-instrumentalists who first came together in Atlanta in 2009 before moving to separate places and continuing to make music via the internet. Matador signed them after two striking independently issued singles. Algiers' sound is rife with references that smear together in a soundscape that reasserts (not recombines) musical traditions in a visceral, militant, spiritual way: the striated post-punk of a Certain Ratio, the agit-prop funk attack of the Pop Group, angular, elastic guitar screes à la Gang of Four, the pulsing industrial crunch of Suicide, the hard psychedelic soul of the Temptations, raw Georgia gospel circa the Elders of Zion, John Lee Hooker's early boogie, and the lonesome wails of chain gangs and field hollers. The album was co-produced by Algiers and Tim Morris at 4AD's London studios. In "Remains," lead singer Franklin James Fisher lays out a gospel wail, "We're you're careless mistakes/We're the spirits you've raised/We are what remains," framed by brooding, low-end keyboards, stacked handclaps, looped kick drums, and a groaning backing chorus (provided by himself and his bandmates). Fisher's startling vocal chops come right out of the black church; his worldview has been formed by international struggles for racial and class equality. He's answered by Lee Tesche's spiky guitar shards and Ryan Mahan's jolting bassline with disruptive, brittle drum programming and Mancunian-esque synth skeins. "Claudette" melds howling soul, digital dub, and butt-shaking bass funk to screaming guitar feedback atop wafting Wurlitzers and chanted and crooned gospel vocals. "Blood" uses hypnotic, reverbed bass, drum loops, handclaps, call-and-response gospel, and slow, disruptive, blues guitar as Fisher intones "Four hundred years of torture/Four hundred years a slave/Dead just to watch you squander/What we tried to save...So drown in entertainment/'Cause all our blood's in vain." His lyrics address personal and collective alienation in the 21st century, where history has been all but erased, but his refusal to be silenced and his demand to be heard -- and seen -- on his own terms extend the continuum for the historical struggle for justice. The use of dub piano on "But She Was Not Flying" (which recalls Mikey Dread's on The Clash's Sandinista! and Dennis Bovell's on Y) adds a skeletal melodic frame to the clashing of the instrumental and vocal rhythms. In "Black Eunuch," shame becomes a motivating factor for an awakened sense of resistance and refusal. Militant handclaps, chunky funk guitar, wrangling basslines, and distorted backing vocals fuel his soaring, wrenching vocal. The Suicide-esque keyboard pulse is answered by frantic Afrobeat guitar and a thrumming bass charge. "In Parallax" is a harrowing, apocalyptic redemption song. Massive moaning and groaning choral vocals are fueled by crunchy loops and fingerpicked electric guitars. Algiers, both band and album, offer musical and topical intensity alternately malevolent and passionate in searching and affirming truth, human and otherworldly. All of these seemingly disparate historical musical elements are distilled in such a startling manner, they carve something new from the fragments. This is a stunning debut.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek