Some bands show a noticeable evolution between their first and second album. That doesn't seem to be the case with 2018's Negative Work, the second full-length release from E, an experimental indie rock project featuring Thalia Zedek, Jason Sanford, and Gavin McCarthy. The trio's self-titled 2016 debut album was already crackling with energy and ideas, and in their second act, rather than moving on to other creative territory, E have chosen to hone their impressive skill set to an even finer point. E's raison d'etre is the guitar interplay between Zedek and Sanford, and the two push one another into bracing, imaginative directions here; while the pair can make a powerful calamity on tracks like "The Projectionist" and "Down She Goes," they generate fireworks even on more contemplative pieces like "Hole in Nature" and "A House Inside," where the back and forth between the sharp single-note patterns (and occasional metallic shrieks) and the noisier, fuzzier chording generates its own kind of drama and tension. Zedek and Sanford's guitars are in the spotlight on Negative Work, but drummer McCarthy does more than his share. His percussion adds body and muscle to the performances, his furious rhythms moving the music forward despite the many sonic angles, and he's strong enough here that you won't miss the absence of a bassist. There's a weary sort of ferocity to Zedek's vocals, suggesting someone at once resigned and brutally determined, while Sanford is capable of creating a sinister persona that doubles down on the claustrophobic impact of this music. Negative Work doesn't rewrite E's formula, and it doesn't have to; it finds them mining plenty of worth from the ground rules they established on their debut, and the result is another challenging, darkly engaging release.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming