I’ll admit to not having been terribly familiar with 100blumen apart from hearing the name dropped by somewhat savvier rivet folk, but with an expanded line-up (now including live drums) releasing an album which promised a blend of industrial and punk under an anarchist ethos I figured it was time to check out what I’d been missing out on six albums in. A fair bit, as it turns out. Distrust Authority is a tight and creative package, brimming with sounds and ideas but never overstepping its reach or run time.
The album art and song titles connote a pan-EU “our money is on fire and our cops are in league with fascists” panic which fits the stories of stifling austerity and rioting we’re hearing from many corners of Europe of late, and the relative lack of vocals perhaps keeps 100blumen’s politics from being pinned to one particular country or language (One of the sole exceptions is a demure quip: “We don’t want to occupy shit / We just want to destroy capitalism.” Oh, is that all?).
Perhaps more concretely, though, the lack of vocals frees up the instrumentation to reach some cool structural territory it might not otherwise have reached. Industrial-punk isn’t exactly a new formulation, and instrumental Ant-Zen records are as common as dirt, but rarely do those streams cross. Given 100blumen’s roots in punk, it’d be foolhardy to presume they’d be using these two aspects of their construction to create nothing but experimental, Glenn Branca-like guitar orchestrations, but it’s cool to hear industrial guitars being drafted in service of something other than the verse/chorus template, and the record is full of quick changes and strong builds.
“Your Hearts”‘ sludgy, break-tinted guitar sets the listener up for a fun if not radically experimental record of aggro, but subsequent cut “In Shining Armour” flips the script: overtop of a midtempo rhythm section a wonderfully textured and gated organ lead flitters up and down tense scales, with (Cthulhu help me) Bach and Trans Am being the most immediate comparisons my brain leapt to. “Driving Back To Hell” has a similar deftness to its keyboards, and on the whole the leads on Distrust Authority are kept spritely and light, and make for a nice dynamic range in concert with the thick guitars and drums. Speaking of the drums, they’re mixed with a clarity that propels the more directly rock-oriented tracks wonderfully (like “[Still] Unbreakable” and “Police Truck”, sadly not a DK cover). It bears repeating: it’s legitimately exciting to hear 100blumen fuse industrial and rock without making “industrial rock”.
I’m certainly no expert on how Distrust Authority fits in with the rest of 100blumen’s catalog, though some cursory listens suggest it has far less in common with traditional rhythmic noise markers than earlier releases. I’m keen to investigate further, but in the meantime Distrust Authority is scratching several musical itches at once.