By Gareth Watkins
CALGARY – Cgsjusjjsymu6asjmuj—That’s me head-butting the keyboard and that’s the closest I can get to summarizing Uniform’s music in a word. It’s not that there aren’t heavier, harder-hitting bands out there—there’s all of grindcore, powerviolence and war-metal—but that there’s something about the New York duo’s pummeling industrial-hardcore that is all the more powerful for its clarity and singular focus.
“Our music is incredibly loud and very repetitive”, says guitarist Ben Greenberg, “we’re generally just looking for new sounds within a very narrow framework.
We reconfigure our entire process every time we sit down to make a new record, the most important thing is for us to be challenging ourselves at every step.”
Their latest reconfiguration has produced Wake In Fright, a record with song titles like “Night of Fear” and “The Killing of America” (if those sound like the titles of ‘80s VHS exploitation movies, that’s because they are). It was released on Sacred Bones, a taste-making label that’s already hosted some goth-inflected singer-songwriters (Zola Jesus, Marissa Nadler) and industrial-adjacent experimentalists (Pharmakon, Blanck Mass), but for whom Uniform are the first band that would fit as snugly at Maryland Death Fest as they would at a Bushwick loft show.
Over interview they’re surprisingly laid back for a band that describe their lyrical themes as: “Loss of friends, loved ones, identity, self control. Constant, unpreventable, total loss.” They may sound like an unholy amalgam of Big Black, Godflesh, Slayer, Whitehouse and Killing Joke, but vocalist Michael Berdan, according to his bandmate “loves The Clash.”
“It’s kinda weird. I mean I think they’re alright but he loves ‘em. Walks around singing ‘Lost In The Supermarket’ everywhere he goes,” recalls Greenberg. He also cites composer and sound artist Ellen Arkbro as a possible future influence, so their next album may sound less Cgsjusjjsymu6asjmuj and more aaaaaaahhhhhh.
It’s not hard to understand Greenberg’s ambivalence to The Clash and interest in the sound art of new music: he’s also an avant-garde player in his own right, performing longform, often-improvised compositions under the name Hubble (one such set will occur at Sled Island). Where Uniform is vicious and direct, Hubble is removed and contemplative. Greenberg’s output between the two have little in common sonically but each balances out the other.
Back to Uniform, Wake In Fright may be—much like Big Black—a series of portraits of losers and loners at the fringes of American society, but it feels timely. The video for “The Killing of America” just syncs up a map of police shootings with the song’s punishing drum beat; hardly subtle, but then neither is having a shady game show host be the American president. 2017 might not deserve a soundtrack, but in Uniform its found one.
Uniform play at The Palomino on June 23, while Greenberg will showcase Hubble the night before at the King Eddy.Greenberg, Hubble, King Eddy, Sled Island, Sled Island 2017, The Palomino, Uniform