Facs' Negative Houses is a debut album with a lot of history behind it. The trio formed from the ashes of Chicago experimentalists Disappears, who spent the better part of the 2010s honing their hypnotic yet explosive rock. When bassist Damon Carruesco left to concentrate on his visual art and his electronic project Tüth, the other members -- vocalist/guitarist Brian Case, guitarist Jonathan Van Herik, and drummer Noah Leger -- gave their time-tested chemistry a new perspective as Facs. Recorded just a few months after they became a separate entity from Disappears, Negative Houses is often a logical progression from that band's output. With its fiery distortion, "Exit Like You" could have easily appeared on Era or Irreal. However, there are many more moments where Facs subtly but notably distinguish themselves from their past. Working with longtime engineer John Congleton, they don't just sound cool -- they sound cold. A glassy sheen coats their music's ever-starker and darker spaces on the excellent opener "Skylarking," where they hold the tension of its booming drums and ticking guitars like an uncomfortably long stare. From there, Facs get even more adventurous with their use of negative space. The album's nearly-nine-minute centerpiece "Houses Breathing," which pits the rhythm section's undertow against a snarling saxophone, is a study in eerie minimalism with roots in Disappears' reworking of David Bowie's classic album, Low: Live in Chicago. Similarly, the chiming, rolling "Silencing" feels like a direct descendant of Wire at their most introspective. While Negative Houses remains intense on whispery exercises in texture and tension like "Just a Mirror" and "Others," Facs truly come into their own on more dynamic, melodic moments such as "All Futures," a finale so suspenseful it sounds like it was recorded on the edge of a cliff. Given that Van Herik left Facs soon after this album was recorded, Negative Houses is a portrait of the band at a very specific moment in their evolution. Nevertheless, it's ample proof that these long-standing collaborators still sound fresh.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares